New Delhi: Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on Thursday said India and four-nation European Free Trade Association (EFTA) has agreed to conclude the ongoing free trade pact negotiations by the end of this year.
Sharma said that both the sides have completed seven round of negotiations. EFTA states include Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
EFTA is an inter-governmental organisation that promotes free trade and economic integration between the four nations. It is not part of the 27-nation European Union.
“In Bern, we (India and Switzerland) had agreed that by end of this year, India-EFTA bilateral trade and investment agreement will be concluded,” Sharma said at a Ficci function.
Last month, Sharma met Switzerland‘s Economic Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann in Bern and discussed the pact.
Talking on the occasion, Schneider-Ammann said that the free trade would enhance economic relationship and also benefit businesses and economy of both the countries.
In the seventh round of the talks, which were held here in February, both the sides discussed market access for industrial products, fish and agricultural goods, technical barriers to trade, customs procedures, investment, intellectual property rights and dispute settlement.
India and EFTA had agreed to launch negotiations on the trade and investment agreement in January this year, following recommendations of a Joint EFTA-India Study Group set up in December 2006.
The trade between Switzerland and India stood at $18 billion in 2010, up from $15 billion last year.
Swiss exports to India include machines, pharmaceutical and chemical products as well as precision instruments, while imports from India include textiles, agricultural products and components for the airline industry. There are about 170 Swiss companies doing business in India.
Sharma also said both the sides can cooperate in sectors like infrastructure, biotechnology, food processing,chemicals, engineering and industrial equipment, precision instruments and services.
He further said that soon, India and EU would also conclude the free trade pact negotiations.