India, EFTA look to restart stalled trade talks

Press Trust of India  | February 10, 2016

India and EFTA, a bloc of four European countries, will discuss resumption of talks for the proposed free trade agreement during a meeting here on Friday.

The trade talks between India and the bloc are stalled due to a host of issues, including intellectual property rights.

A parliamentary delegation of the European Free Trade Association, consisting of Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, will meet the commerce ministry officials on Friday to give a push to the trade negotiations.

The EFTA Parliamentary Committee, which was in Mumbai today, will also discuss closer bilateral economic relations with members of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
“The key topic of discussion will be the resumption of negotiations on a comprehensive trade and economic partnership agreement between the EFTA states and India,” the Swiss Parliament said in a statement.

The India-EFTA trade talks were launched in 2008.

The proposed pact covers both trade in goods (industrial and agricultural products) and in services, market access for investments, protection of intellectual property and public procurement.

Negotiations were stuck on some issues related with intellectual property rights. EFTA wants India to commit more in IPR. They were also demanding for data exclusivity, which India is completely opposed to.

Data exclusivity provides protection to the technical data generated by innovator companies to prove the usefulness of their products.

In pharmaceutical sector, drug companies generate the data through expensive global clinical trials to prove the efficacy and safety of their new medicine. Switzerland has huge interest in this sector.

By gaining exclusive rights over this data, innovator companies can prevent their competitors from obtaining marketing licence for low-cost versions during the tenure of this exclusivity.

Both the sides have completed over a dozen rounds of talks so far.

Two-way trade between India and EFTA stood at USD 24.5 billion in 2014-15 as against USD 22.1 billion in 2013-14.

Switzerland is India’s 11th biggest investor. Swiss companies run over 220 production plants, distribution centres and research laboratories in India and directly employ more than 100,000 people, the Swiss statement said.

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