We've closing window of opportunity to finalise talks: EU

We've closing window of opportunity to finalise talks: EU New Delhi: The EU Thursday said there is a short "window of opportunity" to conclude the long pending negotiations for the free trade agreement with India, which will soon go into election mode.

"Elections (in India) are on the horizon... So we have a closing window of opportunity (to finalise the talks)," said Joao Cravinho, Ambassador of the European Union to India.

Maintaining that the pact was within reach, he said the agreement will lead to an extremely promising road ahead. Negotiations were all about "giving a little and taking a little", he mentioned.

Lok Sabha elections are scheduled to be held next year.

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 on the level of opening up of the markets.

The pact seeks to sharply reduce tariffs on goods and liberalise services and investments provisions.

Cravinho said if import duty on European cars are removed, the prices of luxury sedans and high-end SUVs will down by half.

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

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. A FICCI report said trade is likely to more than double to over USD 207 billion by 2015 if the trade pact is formalised.

Cravinho noted that besides trade, India-EU ties, which began essentially as developmental assistance, the relations have grown into various sectors.

He said climate change, energy cooperation, nuclear research, higher education among others were some of the new areas of cooperation.

According to Cravinho, India and EU have similar viewpoints on issues like Afghanistan, stability in Indian ocean and South China Sea.

He said other areas of cooperation that have grown in the recent past include counter-piracy, cyber-security and counter-terrorism.

PTI