New Delhi: On the eve of the meeting of chief negotiators tomorrow in Brussels, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on Thursday called for an early conclusion of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations between India and EU.
At a meeting here with Hugo Swire, the British Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth, Sharma said: "Offer on the table is very strong and largely we have meeting of mind."
Both the sides should focus on the big picture, the benefits that will accrue and the positive message that will resonate in global economy, said a statement quoting Sharma.
The FTA, officially dubbed as BTIA, seeks to sharply reduce tariffs on goods, and liberalise services and investment provisions.
"The chief negotiators of both sides will meet in Brussels on March 22 and March 23 to carry forward the negotiations, the statement said.
It said intensive engagements on part of the two sides are a reflection of their desire to finalise a balanced trade agreement at the earliest.
India and the 27-nation bloc European Union are negotiating the BTIA since June 2007 and have missed several deadlines to conclude the talks.
Differences between the two sides on the level of opening of the market came in the way of the conclusion of the pact.
India has been seeking single visa for its professionals on short-term contractual visits to the European Union. On the other hand, the 27-nation bloc has been asking for significant reduction in customs duty on cars, wines and spirits on their exports to India.
According to trade experts, the agreement will help Indian companies expand in the EU, the country's biggest trading partner. Europe, meanwhile, wants access to a big market of 1.2 billion potential customers in India.
The two-way trade between India and EU increased to about USD 110 billion in 2011 from USD 83.37 billion in 2010.
India has already implemented comprehensive FTAs with other countries such as Japan, Malaysia and South Korea.
Further, Sharma apprised the UK Minister about emerging opportunities for investment in India.
He briefed Swire on developing integrated Industrial townships, especially in proposed Chennai-Bangalore Industrial Corridor Project, the statement said.
The ministers agreed to move forward in exploring the possibilities in advanced manufacturing, it said.
During 2012, the bilateral trade between India and the UK grew 28 per cent to USD 16 billion over the previous year. However, the two-way trade has witnessed a declining trend during April-January of the 2012-13 fiscal.
First Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013, 17:34