The European Union on Monday said it was hopeful of forward movement in negotiations with India on the long-pending free trade agreement, and favoured opening separate talks for an investment protection treaty.
The European Union on Monday said it was hopeful of forward movement in negotiations with India on the long-pending free trade agreement, and favoured opening separate talks for an investment protection treaty. In a media interaction, Ambassador of European Union Ugo Astuto said the EU-India partnership is going through momentous transformation and that there has been a clear commitment by both sides to expand ties in key areas.
He said the next India-EU annual summit is expected to take place in the first half of next year during which both sides will deliberate on ways to further deepen cooperation in key areas including trade and investment.
On the long pending FTA, officially known as the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), he said he was hopeful of a positive outcome. “We have issues on tariff, we have issues to discuss on government procurement, labour standards and stainability. These are part and parcel of all our Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). These are all complex issues. That is why technical conversation continues,” Astuto said.
The envoy was asked whether there was any forward movement on the pact. The negotiations for the agreement have been held up since May 2013 due to differences on several contentious issues between the two sides. The negotiations for the pact were launched in 2007. Besides demanding significant duty cuts in automobiles, the EU wants tax reduction on wines, spirits and dairy products, and a strong intellectual property regime.
On the other hand, India is asking it be granted data secure nation status by the EU. The country is among the nations not considered as data secure by the EU. “I am hopeful,” the envoy said about the proposed pact, adding there has been renewed interests about it after India pulled out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). He also favoured opening separate talks between the two sides for an investment protection treaty.
India’s bilateral investment protection treaties with individual European countries have lapsed in the last few years. The EU wanted the pacts to continue until they are replaced by the FTA which will have provisions for investment protection. On the data protection Bill 2018 which was cleared by the Union Cabinet recently, Astuto said the EU was following developments relating to it closely.
He said the EU’s view is that free flow of data was essential for promoting trade and investment. “We hope the end result will see a sufficient convergence of the bill with EU regulations,” he said. On overall ties, the envoy said the cooperation between the two sides was moving forward in the right direction and that both sides can work more closely in areas like environment protection, countering terrorism, connectivity and trade and investment.