Final push for EU trade pact

New Delhi, March 28: The ministerial level talks between India and the European Union (EU) next month will provide an opportunity to conclude a free trade agreement.

Commerce minister Anand Sharma will attend the meeting in Brussels on April 15 to give a final push to the pact, negotiations for which are on since June 2007.

Last week, the chief negotiators from India and the EU had met to narrow the differences. The EU wants greater market access in auto, wine and spirits. However, India is yet to get a final word on services sector market access from the EU.

The failure of the ministerial meeting could jeopardise the FTA prospects because India will not be keen on talks with the general elections looming next year, analysts said.

"We are in a very advanced stage of reaching an agreement, one of the most ambitious trade and investment agreements between India and the EU," Sharma has said.

However, officials said the two sides needed to resolve their differences regarding Indian duties on cars, spirits and dairy products along with access of the services sector to the European labour market.

Another area of concern is India being recognised as a "data secure" country under services trade negotiations. At present, India is not recognised as a data secured nation by the EU. As a result, Indian firms are not able to bag large-scale government contracts.

"This is extremely critical. Without this, actual market access for our professionals cannot be meaningful under services trade. We will ask for a written assurance from the EU recognising India as a data secure country," the official said.

Fearing an adverse impact of the trade pact on the pharma sector, domestic drug firms have urged the government to keep patent infringement issues out of the FTA.

The pact will be a broad-based trade and investment agreement, which will cover over 95 per cent of tariff lines. The pact seeks to sharply reduce tariffs on goods and liberalise services and investment provisions.


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