New Delhi: Talks between India and the European Union (EU) to conclude a free trade agreement (FTA) have reached their “final, critical stage”, an EU statement said on Monday after negotiations between the two sides.
It appears unlikely though that the pact would be signed at the India-EU summit in February as planned.
“It is expected that the summit will endorse a tight roadmap for conclusion (of the FTA) in the coming months,” said the statement issued at the end of talks between the Indian foreign minister S.M. Krishna and EU high representative for foreign and security policy Catherine Ashton in Bangalore, the clearest indication yet that the pact would not be sealed at the summit.
The day-long Ashton-Krishna talks were aimed at setting the agenda ahead of the summit in New Delhi on 10 February, the statement said.
Both sides “reiterated our commitments to intensify our cooperation in diverse fields including trade and investment, movement of peoples, energy, science and technology and counter-terrorism”, according to a statement by India’s ministry of external affairs.
Talks for concluding the ambitious pact started in 2007 but have stalled over contentious issues such as tariffs and government procurement. Indian automobile and wine associations are opposed to significant concessions to European multinational firms, fearing loss of market share.
While the EU is keen to have greater market access in India, including a large number of agricultural products, India is keen on fewer restrictions on the temporary movement of Indians working in Europe. There are differences over intellectual property rights as well.
The EU as an economic bloc is India’s largest trade partner. In 2010, it imported goods worth €33.2 billion from India and exported goods worth €34.7 billion. Services exports to India stood at €9.8 billion and imports at €8.1 billion, according to EU figures.