Source: Economic Times
11 Sep 2014
NEW DELHI: India today said it is willing to go in for a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union but wants the 27-member bloc to address the issues flagged by New Delhi.
“Nothing stops us from doing it but, of course, let him (the EU ambassador) also come back saying that they are interested…its not as if we are holding back…,” Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters here.
The EU’s main focus at present is on the the mega trade pact – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
The minister said the EU Ambassador had met her recently and the agreement came up for discussion.
Launched in June 2007, negotiations between India and the EU for Broadbased Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) had hit a road block in May last year as both the sides failed to bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues.
For the Indian side, among other issues, granting of data secure nation status to it by the EU is very crucial as it will have a bearing on Indian IT companies wanting market access there. India also wants liberalised visa norms for its professionals and greater market access in services and the pharmaceuticals sector.
Besides demanding significant duty cuts in automobiles, the EU side is pressing for tax reduction in wines and spirits and dairy products and a strong intellectual property regime.
Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher said that negotiations for the pact had advanced to a significant levels.
“…if this agreement has to conclude, then the EU has to consider exposition thats what we have said,” Kher said.
The total trade between India and EU was about $ 103 billion during 2013-14.
On industry apprehensions that FTAs are not benefiting India, he said these pacts will help increase competitiveness of Indian products.
He admitted however that few sectors could have been impacted by these agreements.
“This is clearly made out that FTAs per se have not adversely affected manufacturing. Yes, some segments of manufacturing can be affected,” he said, adding that the recent FTA partners have utilised these pacts to the extent of only 3-28 per cent.
He also said that at a time when the WTO is not delivering “then in order to find preferential markets you get into these FTAs”.
India is part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement but not the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and TTIP.
Kher said: “…so clearly the choice is if you want to diversify and if you want to intensify preferential trading, we have to look into markets which are relatively less exposed and that is why we are proposing Latin America, Africa, CIS, South Asia, and West Asia.
“These are the markets which we should utilise either through institutional mechanism such as PTAs and FTAs or through the sector base cooperation.”