The Hindu | 8 December 2010
Negotiations on free trade with EU likely to conclude by March: Anand Sharma
India and 27-nation bloc European Union are likely to conclude a comprehensive market opening trade pact by March 2011, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, who is leaving for Brussels on Tuesday, said.
“The next round of negotiations will be in December. By March, we expect to conclude the negotiations on the free trade agreement,” Mr. Sharma told PTI.
German Ambassador to India Thomas Matussek had also said yesterday the negotiations are expected to be wrapped up sometime next year.
Mr. Sharma will join Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who is scheduled to attend the 11th India—EU Summit on Friday in Brussels.
The previous summit took place in Delhi in December last year, and sought to further deepen relations between the two strategic partners in key areas of cooperation.
The two sides have already held more than 10 round of talks since 2007 for the Bilateral Investment and Trade Agreement for opening commerce in goods, services and investment.
The talks, started in 2007, had hit roadblocks many times as there was a pressure from some of the EU members that social issues like environment and labour standards should be covered in the agreement. However, India has been resisting these efforts.
The two sides recently stepped up efforts to resolve the pending issues as they want to conclude the negotiations by year end.
EU is India’s largest trading partner. The bilateral trade in 2009-10 aggregated to USD 75 billion.
India has implemented free trade agreements with the ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations), South Korea and Singapore.