New Delhi: Unfazed by hiccups in concluding the long-pending free trade agreement with European Union, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday expressed the hope that the pact would be sealed soon.
"We have entered into Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with the ASEAN countries as well as the Republic of Korea. We are hoping to conclude a similar agreement with the European Union soon," he said.
Launched in June, 2007, the negotiations for the proposed Broadbased Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) between India and the 27-nation European bloc has witnessed many hurdles with both sides having major differences on crucial issues.
In May, negotiations at the chief negotiator level failed to reach a final position on the proposed trade pact.
The EU side has been pressing for hiking FDI cap to 49 percent in the insurance sector. India has expressed its inability to do so without an approval from the Parliament.
Besides demanding significant duty cuts in automobiles, EU is also demanding for tax reduction in wines and spirits and dairy products and a strong intellectual property regime.
On the other hand, India is asking for granting data secure nation status to it by EU. The matter is crucial as it will have a bearing on Indian IT companies wanting market access. It also wants liberalised visa norms for its professionals and market access in services and pharmaceuticals sector.
India is among nations not considered data secure by the EU. The EU law mandates that European countries doing outsourcing business with countries that are not certified as data secure have to follow stringent contractual obligations which increases operating costs and affects competitiveness.
Further, Singh said the rupee depreciation will help industry to compete effectively with other countries, "both in export markets and against their imports in our markets". Earlier this month, rupee had touched an all time low of 61.21 against dollar.
"I hope industry is thinking seriously of how to become more competitive," he added.