New Delhi: Indian and European Union (EU) trade officials are aiming to close negotiations on a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) before the next summit meeting between them in February. Talks will resume in the coming months to solve key issues such as tariffs, services and government procurement, EU trade spokesman John Clancy said in a statement on Friday.

“In order to tackle these issues effectively, intense negotiating activity is expected in between now and the EU-India summit on 10 February," the EU said in the statement. “This includes technical-level discussions on services and establishment this week, expert level negotiations on non-tariff barriers during week of 21 November, chief negotiators’ discussions during week of 5 December to discuss all outstanding issues and further engagement between senior officials in mid-December."

Clancy said the deal is very important for both the EU and India. “There are some important issues outstanding, and only an ambitious agreement will bring significant benefits. But the EU and India are working full steam ahead to find solutions which are acceptable to both sides," he said.

Trade minister Anand Sharma . Reuters

The 13th round of FTA negotiations was held from 31 March to 6 April in New Delhi.

“Both sides are committed to a balanced, ambitious agreement by early 2012. This agreement will lead to the increase of opportunities for market access in both goods and services for both sides," Sharma said during a meeting in New Delhi with Kris Peeters, the Flemish minister for economy, foreign policy, agriculture and rural policy.

According to the EU statement, in the short-run alone, India is expected to gain €5 billion (Rs34,650 crore) and the EU at least €4 billion. 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.

Ram Upendra Das, a senior fellow at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries, a New Delhi-based think tank, said he is optimistic of a result though the canvas of negotiations appears large. “Services itself is a big area which will consume most of the time for finalization," he added.

Arpita Mukherjee, a professor at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, said if India further liberalizes single- and multi-brand retail as proposed, the EU will be happy and negotiations will move faster.