New Delhi: Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with EU leaders in Belgium, India today said it is keen to sign the free trade pact with the 28-nation bloc at the earliest and will soon approach the authority for a meeting of chief negotiators.
The statement came days after the two sides failed to made the much-awaited announcement on resumption of long stalled negotiations for a free trade agreement as many bottlenecks still remain.
During the 13th India-EU Summit, held after a gap of four years and attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and EU leaders, both the sides, however, welcomed the re-engagement of discussions for furthering the proposed pact.
India is very keen about the agreement and "we want to have the EU FTA signed at the earliest," Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters here.
Sitharaman said she will be writing to EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom "to ask her to quickly arrange for meetings with our chief negotiators and theirs so that the progress on EU trade negotiation can happen rapidly as much as we are now trying to move on Australia too".
"So on European Union, I want to make it clear that the trade negotiations will progress post the EU summit in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also European Union's Presidents were present. The Summit was very productive and we hope to move fast on the FTA with EU," she added.
The negotiations for the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement have been held up since May 2013 as both the sides are yet to bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues, including data security status for the IT sector.
Senior officials from both sides met twice in the last two months to resolve the contentious issues so that some announcements could be made at the summit.
Launched in June 2007, the negotiations for the proposed Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) have witnessed many hurdles with both sides having major differences on crucial issues like intellectual property rights, duty cut in automobile and spirits, and liberal visa regime.
The pact is aimed at reducing or significantly eliminating tariffs on goods, facilitate trade in services and boost investments between the two sides. The two-way commerce in goods between India and the EU stood at USD 98.5 billion in 2014-15.
In August last year, India had deferred talks with the European Union on the agreement, peeved at the ban imposed on around 700 pharma products, which were clinically tested by GVK Biosciences.