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India-EU FTA talks expected to conclude soon: Sharma

Last Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 21:24

New Delhi: Terming the India-EU free trade agreement as the "most ambitious", Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma Thursday indicated that the negotiations for the proposed pact may be concluded soon.

"We are in a very advance stage of reaching an agreement, one of the most ambitious trade and investment agreement (India) between India and European Union (EU)," Sharma said here at the inauguration of ICC Asia Pacific CEO Forum meeting at Ficci.

India and the 27-nation bloc are negotiating the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) since June 2007 and have missed several deadlines to conclude the talks due to differences among the two sides on the level of opening up of the markets.

The free trade agreement, officially dubbed as BTIA, seeks to sharply reduce tariffs on goods and liberalise services and investments provisions.

According to trade experts, the agreement would help Indian companies to expand into the EU, the country?s biggest trading partner. Europe wants access to a big market of 1.2 billion potential customers in India.

The two-way trade stood at USD 91.3 billion in 2010-11.

India has already implemented comprehensive FTAs with countries such as Japan, Malaysia and South Korea.

The ministerial level talks for BTIA is expected in the first week of next month in Brussels.

Allaying apprehensions of the foreign investors about change in the recently announced policies, Sharma said: "What we have done has a finality. Our policies are cast in stone".

He said India has taken many decisions to revive the economy and attract foreign investors despite huge opposition from many political parties.

"We have had made many decisions. Decisions where partisan discourse in India became more polarising and more threatening when it comes to the existence of the government than what the partisanship or the standoff has been at the Capitol Hill, ours became a stiffer challenge, we dealt with it," he said.

The government has allowed FDI in politically sensitive multi-brand retail sector.

Further, Sharma said investors and business community should not be dissuaded by isolated incidents of fraud or scam.

"When you inject negativity in the discourse, you lose the larger picture and the larger picture is that India is a confident country, a constitutional democracy, a rule based and rule governed and aspirational country," he added.

First Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 21:24
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