Switzerland’s Federal Councillor Ueli Maurer on Wednesday pitched for expeditious completion of negotiations for a proposed free trade agreement between India and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), in a meeting with finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman.The EFTA is a regional trading bloc comprising four European economies — Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
India’s exports to EFTA stood at just $1.7 billion in FY22, up 9% from a year ago. However, its imports surged 35% on year to $25.5 billion last fiscal. Of these, imports from Switzerland alone touched $23.4 billion, with supplies of diamonds and other precious and semi-precious stones and metals accounting for as much as $20.9 billion.
Negotiations for a broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement between the EFTA economies and India were officially launched in January 2008. As many as 13 rounds of talks were held until 2013 before they were put on hold. The negotiations were resumed in October 2016.
In a tweet, the Indian ministry of finance said the two leaders exchanged views on global economic issues and India’s upcoming G20 presidency in 2023. “Both sides discussed areas for enhanced cooperation, including on fintech, automatic exchange of information, renewable energy, sunrise sectors as well as infrastructure investments and sustainable finance,” the ministry said.
Separately, according to a statement by the Swiss federal department of finance, Maurer “promoted open markets and emphasised that stronger trade has a positive impact on a country’s prosperity in the long term”. Maurer, who is on a visit to India, also met external affairs minister S Jaishankar.
Their discussion was “centered around identifying potential ways for the two countries to cooperate more closely in the future, and learning more about the Indian financial market, especially in the area of sustainable or green infrastructure and fintech”, according to the Swiss government statement.