No clarity on proposed India-EU trade pact yet

Economic Times | 28 Oct, 2010

No clarity on proposed India-EU trade pact yet

ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: The proposed India-EU free trade agreement (FTA) continues to hang in balance as there is still no clarity on whether the European Parliament will ratify it without inclusion of non-trade issues such as child labour and environment. The Parliament would take a call on the issue once the European Commission comes to it with the "outcome’’ of the negotiations , a group of EU Parliamentarians visiting India said.

India has been opposing inclusion of any non-trade issue in the proposed FTA with its largest trading partner, but the EC argument has been that the European Parliament does not allow such pacts.

Interestingly, the initial agenda of the talks, when they were launched in 2007, did not include any non-trade issue.

“We will wait for the European Commission to come out with the outcome (of the talks),” European Parliament member Wolf Klinz said while addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Officials will meet in Brussels next month to iron out all pending matters which includes not just social issues but also areas such as intellectual property and government procurement. It will be followed by an India-EU summit in mid-December to be attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Both the EU and India had earlier expressed hopes to conclude the FTA before the summit, but it seems to be a difficult proposition now.

“Both sides are engaged in active and constructive negotiations and are working hard to advance the talks,” an EU spokesperson said. He added that it was not possible to speculate on the outcome of the talks.

The agreement is expected to give a boost to bilateral trade currently at about $75 billion. The EU wants to make deeper inroads into the Indian goods markets which is protected by tariffs averaging around 10% and also get more access for its banks and other financial services. India is eyeing more openings in certain categories of goods with high tariffs in the EU such as textiles and leather and a more liberal visa regime for its professionals.

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source: Economic Times