EU trade talks gather pace

The Telegraph (Calcutta)

EU trade talks gather pace

R. SURYAMURTHY

New Delhi, Nov. 21 2010: Indian and European Union officials are meeting here this week to settle their differences on the free trade agreement (FTA) at the earliest.

The talks will seek convergence on market access and intellectual property rights, but non-trade issues remain a sore point.

David ’ Sullivan, EU’s director-general for trade, will be here to thrash out the differences with commerce secretary Rahul Khullar.

Sullivan’s visit will be followed by a meeting in Brussels to settle all pending matters.

The negotiators had hoped to conclude the deal before the India-EU summit in mid-December to be attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“Both sides are engaged in active and constructive negotiations and are working hard to conclude the talks. It is not possible to speculate on the outcome of the talks. However, it seems a difficult proposition to conclude the FTA before the summit,” officials said.

There is still no clarity on whether the European Parliament will ratify the pact without the inclusion of non-trade issues such as child labour, human rights and environment. Indian officials have said they will not discuss non-trade issues.

However, officials said the EU was willing to ease rules pertaining to the movement of technical workers such as IT engineers and managers to live and work in the EU countries in return for greater access to European companies.

A skilled Indian worker will be allowed to work in any EU country under contract; in return, India will reduce tariffs on European products and lift some restrictions on bidding for certain public projects.

The EU also wants India to make the issue of visas to its citizens, business professionals and politicians easier. It wants multiple entry visas with a minimum one-year duration.

Another demand is to open up the Indian markets, which are protected by tariffs averaging around 10 per cent, along with greater access for banks and other financial service providers.

India is eyeing lower tariffs for its goods in the EU such as textiles and leather.

The negotiations cover trade in goods and services, investment, technical barriers to trade, remedies, customs co-operation and trade facilitation, dispute settlement, competition and intellectual property rights. The FTA will provide India a market in 27 European countries.

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source: Telegraph