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India-EU trade agreement likely only by year-end

India-EU trade agreement likely only by year-end

New Delhi: European Union (EU) ambassador to India Daniele Smadja on Friday said ongoing negotiations for the India-EU broad-based trade and investment agreement (BTIA) may not be concluded by April. She said only an agreement on the main elements of the deal would be finalised by then.

“The draft deal will not be ready by April," she said.

Smadja said experts will work on the deal till the next India-EU Summit to be held in Delhi in December, when the BTIA would be signed.

“We believe by spring, there is a possibility of a political agreement on the main elements of the deal," she said in Delhi. “We hope Indian commerce minister Anand Sharma and the European Commission’s Karel De Gucht will be able to agree on the core issues."

Earlier, both sides said in a joint statement after the India-EU summit at Brussels last month that negotiations would be completed by the spring of 2011. They had already missed two earlier deadlines of October and December 2010.

The two sides had declared a road map for the negotiations, including monthly meetings between the chief negotiators and a meeting of the commerce secretary and the director general of trade in early 2011. A ministerial meeting was scheduled for March.

European Commission director general of trade, Jean-Luc Demarty, met Indian commerce secretary Rahul Khullar on 7 January, followed by informal talks among officials of both sides. “The two sides will hold a formal full round of negotiation next week in Kerala," Smadja said.

The trade agreement, negotiations for which started in 2007, is set to be India’s most ambitious bilateral trade pact because the EU is already its largest trading partner.

Annual bilateral trade between India and the European Union totals around €77 billion. India ranks ninth on the EU’s list of major trading partners.

While the EU is keen to have greater market access to India, especially for a large number of agricultural products and in the government procurement market, India is keen on fewer restrictions on the temporary movement of Indians working in Europe.

“We have made some progress on this aspect. We realise that it is an extremely important issue for India," Smadja said. “We hope that we will be able to find a balance on this mobility issue in return of our offensive interests."

On the crucial issue of intellectual property rights (IPR), Smadja said the EU is neither expecting India to change its existing legislation nor seeking an extension of patent terms.

She, however, said data exclusivity is being negotiated between the two sides. “It is an engine for innovation and competitiveness," she said. “It is a matter of negotiations how to arrive at an agreement on this issue."

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