Bonn/New Delhi: India and the EU have agreed that a "fine balance" needs to be arrived at on market access on both the sides, an issue that is bogging progress in the tortuous negotiations for a free trade agreement.
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht concluded another round of talks yesterday at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, which the Commission said "provided a renewed momentum to bring the negotiations forward".
They had a "positive meeting," the Commission spokesman said in a brief statement adding "We look forward to renewed progress in the coming months."
The next ministerial meeting on the ongoing India-EU Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) is scheduled for June as experts and chief negotiators will remain engaged.
An official statement issued in New Delhi said after the meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week and the recent high level dialogue with the French President and British Prime Minister, in substantive terms the need for demonstrating pragmatism was underscored to conclude an ambitious and balanced agreement.
"The candid discussions between the leaders covered all the elements of the package. A clear understanding was reached that a fine balance needs to be arrived at for meaningful expectations of market access on both the sides," it said.
While India wants easy access to European markets for its IT professionals and data secure status, EU is demanding heavy duty cuts to ensure sale of its automobiles, wines and spirits in India. However, the auto industry in India is strongly opposed to duty cut in the sector.
In his talks with Gucht, Sharma underscored the importance of getting a good package on services including declared interest in IT sector and movement of Indian professionals.
He also emphasised the need to declare India a data- secure country. Both the sides sought a complete understanding on a balanced package in the services sector. Other issues of market access for agricultural products, pharmaceuticals and textiles were highlighted by Sharma.
The EU conveyed its strong interest in financial services, automobile sector, wines and spirits and cheese. The EU also sought assurance on the facilitation of registration of their Geographical Indicators.
Sharma reaffirmed the stated position that India cannot go beyond the parameters of the TRIPS Agreement and Indian laws for Intellectual Property Regime in the ongoing negotiations for a trade and investment agreement.
India is demanding for a data secure status from the EU. This has been preventing flow of outsourcing business to India and free flow of sensitive information to India such as patient information for tele-medicine.
The EU also wants hike in the FDI limit in the insurance sector to 49 percent from the current 26 percent, a Bill for which is pending with Parliament.
India is in talks with the EU, its biggest trading partner, since June 2007 for liberalising their commerce in goods, services and investment through an FTA.