India, EU in new bid to clinch free-trade deal

India, EU in new bid to clinch free-trade deal

New Delhi: India and the European Union (EU) are to hold a fresh series of free-trade talks in August in Brussels in a bid to clinch a deal by the end of the year, an official said.

Chief negotiators for India and its largest trading partner will meet at the European Union headquarters in Brussels in August as part of a push to conclude negotiations on the India-EU free-trade pact by December.

“We hope we will keep that (December) date," Daniele Smadja, the head of India’s delegation to the EU, said late Friday.

“Concluding the FTA negotiations will send a clear signal of engagement on both sides. It would boost both trade and investment between EU and India. We need to seize the opportunity -- a one-in-a-lifetime for both of us."

As part of the drive to wrap up talks, the two sides will meet in Brussels in the last week of August, she said. Around the same time, Indian commerce minister Anand Sharma and the EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht will meet on the sidelines of an international meeting in Vietnam, she added.

India and the 27-member EU have been negotiating the market-opening pact since June 2007 to boost bilateral commerce.

But progress has been stymied by differences over intellectual property rights and efforts by Brussels to link trade with climate and India’s social sector performance in such areas as child labour.

India has opposed incorporation of what it calls “extraneous" non-trade issues into the EU talks.

Other issues include the seizure of Indian generic drugs meant for Third World countries as they pass through European ports. India claims developed countries are using the cover of a fight against counterfeit medicines to protect pharmaceutical giants and suppress legitimate generic drugs.

So far nine rounds of free-trade negotiations have been completed.

India’s trade volume of $80.6 billion with the EU accounts for 21% its exports and 16% of imports.

The EU and India set an ambitious target of more than doubling their bilateral trade to $200 billion in the next four years if a free-trade deal is concluded.