After a gap of about 30 months, India and European Union (EU) will resume talks on the proposed free trade agreement (FTA), Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said.
“We are resuming the talks with the EU. The chief negotiators will meet soon,” Sitharaman told PTI in an interview.
Expressing disappointment and concern over the EU banning sale of around 700 pharma products, clinically tested by GVK Biosciences, India had in August deferred FTA talks with EU. Chief negotiators of both the sides were scheduled to meet in August.
In May 2013, India and the 28-nation bloc failed to bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues, including data security status for IT sector.
The free trade pact aimed at reducing or significantly eliminating tariffs on goods, facilitate trade in services boost investments between the two sides.
When asked whether the drug ban issue has been resolved, Sitharaman said: “We have resolved it in the sense that when German Chancellor Angela Merkel came and the Prime Minister met her in Bengaluru, he had raised the issue of 700 drugs being banned.
“And she has assured the Prime Minister that she will look into it and the matter will be given fair justice. We fully appreciate that and post that we have no reason to pull back”.
She said that India deferred the talks because EU’s action was “unilateral” and was “not right”.
“So we have written to them (EU) and they have responded. Soon, the chief negotiators will meet,” she added.
Launched in June 2007, the negotiations for the proposed Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement have witnessed many hurdles with both sides having major differences on crucial issues.
The issues include movement of professionals and data security status. Besides demanding significant duty cuts in automobiles, EU wants tax reduction in wines and spirits and dairy products and a strong intellectual property regime.
The two-way commerce in goods between India and the EU stood at USD 98.5 billion in 2014-15. Talking about other FTAs which are under different stages of negotiations, Sitharaman said: “We have expedited on FTAs particularly with Australia. With Canada too, we will be taking the FTA forward”.
She also said that negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was going full fledged.
“The negotiations are happening in details. So, we are moving forward in FTAs as well as plurilaterals,” she added.