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EU keen to restart FTA negotiations with India

The European Union (EU) today said it wants to restart the negotiations on the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India even as they are awaiting release of the new Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) to understand India’s position.

India and EU have been negotiating the trade pact, which is also known as Broad-Based Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), for over eight years now.

However, it could not be concluded because EU has demanded substantial tariff cut and even elimination of duties on European vehicles, auto components and wines and spirits.

India, on the other hand, has been insisting greater access to the European markets, mainly UK and Germany for its professionals under a relaxed Schengen visa regime.

“Unfortunately we are not in a very different position from where we were a year ago. There had been no negotiations (on the BTIA) and we are waiting for the government to release the new Foreign Trade Policy in terms of the direction and the government’s intent . We hope under the new government circumstances exist to push it through. We are ready to talk,” said EU Ambassador Joao Cravinho here today.

The government, ever since it came to power in May last year, had been moving slowly on the clinching bilateral trade deals. Presently, it is more focused on attracting foreign investments than slashing tariffs under mutual trade agreements, officials told Business Standard.

There had been stiff differences over EU insisting upon a stricter intellectual property regime. The European Commission has been also negotiating a trade deal with the US where a lot of emphasise is being given on product standards and data protection standards.

“There are no new impediments. We still have the same issue of automobiles where there has to be more movement. On wines and spirits our demand is very clear and I find it difficult to believe that we cannot conclude the deal due to this. And then there are issues on services and procurement,” EU envoy said.

So far there had been 15 rounds of talks on the BTIA. The last round of negotiations took place in 2013.

Apart from EU, Canada, Netherlands, Australia and Israel have also urged the government to restart negotiations or conclude the bilateral trade deals. These trade agreements were launched under the previous UPA government.

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