New Delhi: Indian and European negotiators will focus on whittling down differences over market access and intellectual property rights when they meet next week to push for a bilateral trade pact, a European diplomat said on Monday.
Negotiations launched in 2007 for a free trade agreement (FTA) between India and the European Union (EU) have run into a wall of differences, especially over EU’s efforts to link trade with sensitive topics such as climate change and child labour. India wants to keep all that off the table.
Seven rounds of earlier dialogue have focused on market access for goods and services, covering all trade except for public procurement, which India is reluctant to include in the pact.
Daniele Smadja, the head of the European Commission’s (EC) delegation to India, said she was hopeful of progress now because of the political impetus from an India-EU summit late last year and removal of uncertainties over the appointment of the new EU trade commissioner.
“So we know what are the objectives, which were reconfirmed at the highest level during the summit,” Smadja said.
“On the European side also we have confirmed that our mandate is coming from the member states, our mandate didn’t change when we changed trade commissioners from Peter Mandelson to Cathy Ashton to Karel de Gucht. So now I’m tempted to say at last we are sure that the mandate is clear about direction.”
India is also concerned about costly certificates for exporting fruit to the EU and conformity procedures for the EC mark. The EU is among India’s biggest trading partners. Indian exports jumped 29% from the previous year to $34.5 billion (Rs1.58 trillion) in 2007-08, according to government data, and the proposed pact is expected to help bilateral trade exceed $237 billion by 2015.
But hurdles such as patent protection issues remain, and an ongoing dispute over generic drugs with India and Brazil on one side and the EU on the other underline such dilemma.
In the backdrop of uncertain progress on the Doha global trade talks, India has pushed ahead with FTAs with countries such as South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).