The European Union wants to sort out some “misunderstandings” before resuming the talks on the long-stalled proposed Free Trade Agreement with India, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said today.
She also said that the two sides are yet to finalise the dates to resume the negotiations.
Speaking to reporters here, Sitharaman said the EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom has responded to her communication that had sought a meeting of chief negotiators of the two sides on the agreement.
“She has written to me and that there are no pre- conditions and that EU would want to have some of the misunderstandings sorted out much before the talks can resume. This is sum and substance of what she has written to me,” Sitharaman said.
She, however, did not specify what those ‘misunderstandings’ were.
“Those of the kinds of things on which the Ministry will definitely move forward. We want to work with the EU. We want to sign that agreement. We shall move forward and talk. Off course, the dates have still not given,” she added.
The Minister said one has to be mindful of the fact that EU is going through a time when they are waiting for the outcome of Brexit.
Launched in June 2007, the negotiations for the proposed Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) have seen many hurdles with both sides having major differences on crucial issues like intellectual property rights, duty cut in automobile and spirits, and liberal visa regime.
Senior officials from both the sides met have twice so far this year to resolve the contentious issues.
The pact is aimed at reducing or significantly eliminating tariffs on goods, facilitate trade in services and boost investments between the two sides. The two-way commerce in goods between India and the EU stood at USD 98.5 billion in 2014-15.
On other FTAs, Sitharaman said a framework is being drafted for the proposed India-Iran preferential trade agreement.
She said India is actively moving forward on other free trade pacts including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Australia, Israel and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
A joint study group have been set up for the India and Eurasian Customs Union – Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan – pact and the first draft report is ready.
With the South American country Peru also, a joint study group have been established to explore the possibility of entering into an FTA, she added.