New Delhi: India expects to conclude negotiations on the long-pending free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) at a ministerial meeting with EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht scheduled for 14-15 April, trade minister Anand Sharma said on Friday.
Negotiators from both sides have made enormous progress, Sharma said after inaugurating the Mint Luxury Conference in New Delhi on Friday.
“It will be (a) most ambitious trade agreement for India covering 96% of India’s tariff lines. Those who are interested in wines, cheese and many of those other things, these are settled long back. As we speak, the chief trade negotiators of both sides are closeted in Brussels. If they are sitting there for the third day consecutively, they must be making some good progress,” Sharma said. “The ministerial will follow on 14-15 April in Brussels, so that by that time negotiators have tied most of the remaining loose ends.”
Talks on the bilateral trade and investment agreement started in 2007. The two sides have missed at least four deadlines to complete negotiations.
Manoj Pant, a professor at the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said a trade deal with the EU will be beneficial because it is India’s largest trading partner.
“But one has to see how much they liberalize their services regime for India and by what level they reduce tariffs on textiles,” he said.
India has put in place an enabling policy regime to allow foreign investment in single-and multi-brand retail, Sharma said, adding that investors should not have any concern over the sourcing requirement as the government has provided enough flexibility and as major retailers are already sourcing substantially from the Indian market.
“Foreign investors willing to engage with India should look at it as a country with rich resources and institutions,” he said.
The government has already approved 66 proposals in single-brand retail, including in-principle approval for Ikea. Sharma said procedural formalities for granting formal approval to Ikea from the cabinet committee on economic affairs will be completed very soon.
“India is a major sourcing hub for some of these retailers like Ikea, Wal-Mart, Marks and Spencer, Carrefour. Once Ikea and Wal-Mart set shop in India, their sourcing from the country will go up,” he said.
Sharma said luxury brands will have great potential in India as the country has a young and aspirational society. He said India has made its mark in jewellery and diamond polishing.
“Each state of India has its signature, which has been there for centuries. When you engage with India, look at the richness and diversity of the country, its potential and its creativity,” he said.