New Delhi: India on Wednesday said it is committed to expeditiously conclude a free trade agreement with the European Union (EU) and is expecting some headway when the next round of talks take place here in July.
“India is committed (to a) very fast and expeditious conclusion of this agreement...we are making progress on these lines,” Commerce Ministry joint secretary Neeraj Gupta told reporters on the sidelines of a Ficci function.
Talks on an India-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) started in 2007. Six rounds of negotiations have been held but the two sides have not been able to arrive at a consensus on the level of trade to be covered under the FTA that will eventually eliminate duties on goods traded.
Asked whether India has concerns over the EU trying to bring non-trade issues like labour and environment and animal rights in the FTA talks, Gupta said, “These are not the issues at this point of time...we are talking more on substantive issues like tariff and non-tariff barriers...”
In a resolution adopted in Strasbourg, France, the European Parliament said the India-EU FTA should conform to the World Trade Organization agreement on standards relating to packaging, marking and labelling, besides its benchmarks to protect human, animal and plant life.
Industry body Ficci said India’s trade with the EU has the potential to reach $572 billion by 2015 once the FTA with the 27-nation bloc is implemented.
India’s exports to the EU were $34.5 billion in 2007-08 while imports were $38.43 billion.
Major items of exports to the EU include coffee, tea, mineral fuels and apparels. India’s major imports include organic chemicals, pearls and precious stones.
India has signed an FTA with Sri Lanka.
Negotiations for the FTA with the Association of South-East Asian Nations and South Korea, along with a new India-Nepal treaty, have been completed. “We shall be taking all this to Cabinet soon,” commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma said on May 29.