FTA: India-EU officials to meet next week in Brussels

The ministerial level talks are expected in the first week of April.

New Delhi: Ahead of the ministerial level talks, chief negotiators of India and European Union (EU) are scheduled to meet next week in Brussels to fast-track the long pending negotiations that started in June 2007.

The ministerial level talks are expected in the first week of April.

"Before that meeting, the chief negotiators will meet in Brussels. Although still there are outstanding issues, both the sides will try to conclude the talks before India went into election mode," a senior official in the Commerce Ministry said.

"We are in difficult situation...There are elections in European Commission as well," the official said, adding: "EU has to lower its ambitions in order to conclude the talks on time. Whatever EU wants, it is unlikely to get. They have to settle for less than the ambitious target".

When asked whether this meeting would be the last attempt from both the sides to settle the issues, he said that India is optimistic that the negotiations would be concluded soon.

Sharing similar views, John Clancy, EU Trade Spokesperson said: "India and the EU are working very hard to conclude negotiations for an ambitious and comprehensive FTA. The EU hopes that necessary progress can be achieved in the coming months with the aim of reaching an early conclusion."

Clancy too said that some critical areas remain unresolved.

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 pact seeks to sharply reduce tariffs on goods and liberalise services and investments provisions.
Europe wants access to a big market of 1.2 billion potential customers in India. Besides, the EU wants significant duty cuts in sectors like auto and wines and spirits.

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.