EFTA-India free trade agreement likely in 2011: Sharma

EFTA-India free trade agreement likely in 2011: Sharma

Basel: A broad-based trade and investment agreement between India and four-nation European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which includes Switzerland, is expected to conclude in 2011 to facilitate closer economic cooperation.

Commerce and Industry minister Anand Sharma said that seven round of negotiations have already been completed. EFTA, an inter-governmental organisation includes Iceland, Liechtenstein Norway besides Switzerland and promotes free trade and economic integration between the four nations.

“We are in the advance stage to conclude the free trade agreement. We are fast tracking the negotiations with EFTA... I hope that within a month’s time, both the sides will be in a position to make specific offers." Sharma said.

Sharma was here to inaugurate the Indian pavilion at the world’s most coveted watch and jewellery show ‘Basel World 2011´.

He said that India would embrace entire Europe through the comprehensive free trade agreement. India is also deeply engaged with the 27-nation European Union for a bilateral trade and investment agreement.

The minister said that the progress of India EFTA free trade pact would be figured during his bilateral meeting with Switzerland‘s Economic minister, Johann Schneider-Ammann in Bern on Friday.

The EFTA members are not part of 27-nation European Union.

In the seventh round of talk, which was held in February in New Delhi, both the sides discussed about market access for industrial products, fish and agricultural goods, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, customs procedures and trade facilitation, investment, intellectual property rights and dispute settlement.

India and EFTA had agreed to launch negotiations on the trade and investment agreement in January 2011, following recommendations of a Joint EFTA-India Study Group set up in December 2006.

“When the FTA is concluded, we hope that there will be a significant rise in bilateral trade," Sharma said.

The trade between Switzerland and India stood at $18 billion in 2010 up from $15 billion in 2010.

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