New Delhi: The European Union (EU), despite India’s stiff opposition, does not rule out the possibility of including environmental and labour issues in its bilateral talks with India. At the same time, EU hints it may relent and allow freer movement of professionals.
The discussions are a prelude to a broad-based trade and investment pact between India and EU.
“We would like to include sustainable development in the context of environment and some other issues. Social issues in terms of the work of the International Labour Organization are issues of concern to public opinion. We are not trying to impose anything in the negotiations but, we are keen to integrate it in the larger ambit of the agreement in the long run,” David O’Sullivan, director-general for trade in the European Commission, told Mint.
Sullivan is in New Delhi to participate in the preliminary discussions for the pact. He said, “these are not negotiations but intended to fasttrack the negotiations once we get the mandate of the council of ministers (to negotiate the pact) sometime next month.”
He said EU was aware that opening up movement for professional workers from India was an important part of the negotiations for India, and EU would try to be as generous as possible. Sullivan admitted that there were serious concerns from some EU members on movement of labour.
On the issue of taking India to the dispute settlement body at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the discriminatory duties on imported wines and spirits, he said, “We have made it clear to India that this is an important issue which has been in discussion for a number of years. If we feel we are not getting a response we will explore all options. We have been informed that they are trying to work out something in the forthcoming Union budget on 28 February. Since the process in the WTO also takes time, we are not likely to take any action until the budget is announced.”
He said the EU cannot recognize Indian whisky made from molasses and would continue to categorize it as rum. “We don’t have a problem in treating Indian whisky, which conforms to the international definition of being made from grains, as whisky. Whisky from molasses does not conform to the international definition,” Sullivan said.
On the progress at WTO, Sullivan said, “The mood is positive and the ground language is positive. We are very determined to achieve a breakthrough by the end of the year or early next year.”
Asked to respond to the proposal of the US Farm Bill 2007 he said, “There is a clear evidence of reforms but it not enough.” He pointed out that there was not much concern for the moment since the US had said that its farm bill is a domestic matter and not part of the Doha negotiations.
Sullivan said EU had already undertaken drastic cuts in its domestic farm support and had offered to end export subsidies by 2013, provided there was parallel commitment from the US, Australia and Canada.
EU recognized India’s concerns in farming and supported its demand on special products. “India, along with other developing countries which have defensive interests in agriculture, need to make clear to the US and other exporting countries the scope of the special products,”he said.