India today pressed for early commencement and conclusion of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks with the five-nation Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) to help scale up bilateral trade by as much as five- times to USD 62 billion in a decade. At an India-Eurasia Strategic Dialogue, held on the sides of St Petersburg International Economic Forum, Secretary in the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) Ramesh Abhishek said trade between India and EAEU was only USD 8.4 billion in 2015-16 and there is “mutual desire” to take it higher.
EAEU members are Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. A joint feasibility report on the proposed agreement was completed last year. It concluded that the proposed pact is feasible and mutually beneficial with substantial potential welfare gains and augmentation in trade in goods, he said. Bilateral trade due to the FTA has potential to grow to “USD 37 billion to USD 62 billion in a decade,” he said. “We should look for early commencement and conclusion of FTA negotiations,” the secretary added.
Under a free trade pact, two trading partners reduce or eliminate duties on most of the goods traded between them. Besides, norms are liberalised to promote trade in services sector and boost investments. India has implemented such agreements with several countries including Japan, Korea and Singapore. EAEU region, with a population size of over 180 million, holds huge potential to increase trade. Abhishek also said India is keen on effective use of the North-South corridor that will cut transit distance between India and EAEU nations by 40 per cent, time taken for trade by 50 per cent and transport cost by 30 per cent.
He identified energy, pharmaceuticals, IT and health services as potential areas of cooperation. “We need to expedite bilateral investment treaties,” he said. Talking about foreign investment regime of India, he said said India is the most attractive destination for FDI with USD 160 billion investment coming in the last three years, including the highest ever USD 60 billion last fiscal. “We have liberalised and open FDI policy,” he added. Further, the feasibility study about the free trade pact had recommended launching of negotiations with the help of setting up of a Trade Negotiating Committee.
Negotiations should be pursued on three tracks simultaneously — trade in goods, services and investment. Also, it has recommended that adequate focus be given to the operationalisation of the International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) and Green Corridor between India and the EAEU to take full advantage of the FTA.