India, EFTA move toward trade & investment pact

Written by Agencies | Davos, January 26: | Updated: Jan 27 2008, 00:17am hrs
Mid-course through negotiating a free trade pact with European Union, India agreed to start talks on a similar deal with a group of four European countries including Switzerland.

India and European Free Trade Association, comprising Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland, will set up a joint task force (JTF) for negotiating a broad-based trade and investment pact.

A joint study group, set up in December 2006 to explore the possibility of such an agreement, has submitted its report suggesting that both sides would "significantly benefit from a bilateral broad-based trade and investment agreement".

The recommendation of the JSG have been accepted by India and EFTA States, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath said. He also held talks with his counterparts in EFTA countries.

Nath, who was here to participate in the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, said a joint task force would be formed to negotiate the proposed broad-based trade and investment agreement between India and EFTA states.

India is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with European Union -- a 27-member bloc excluding the EFTA states -- and both the sides are committed to reach a pact by this year end.

India has shown interest for exploring deeper engagement with EFTA due to strong economic complementarities, a Commerce Ministry release said.

Bilateral trade between India and EFTA in 2005-06 was 7.4 billion dollars, comprising exports of 623.11 million dollars and imports of 6,852.25 million dollars. Among the four EFTA members, India's largest trading partner is Switzerland followed by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.