June 2008

Vol 7 - No. 12
 

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Letter from Europe | June 2008

 


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India for Enhanced Trade Deal with EFTA and EU

India wants to hammer out bilateral trade agreements with European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

India and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), founded in 1960, comprising Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland, have decided to conclude a free trade agreement within next one year, Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said in New Delhi on April 29.

“In January this year we signed with the EFTA countries the agreement to start negotiations for a free trade agreement. These negotiations are going to commence shortly and we believe that we’ll be able to conclude the EFTA free trade agreement within one year,” the minister said during a bilateral meeting with the 25-member Swiss business delegation, on a six-day visit to India, led by Doris Leuthard, Swiss federal councillor and head of the Department of Economic Affairs. 

“I have said that India is a country which respects geographical indications, respects intellectual property and we will build these into our agreement on trade,” the minister said.

India’s largest trading partner is Switzerland followed by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

On May 20, the European Commission called on India to go further with its plans to open up its economy to European exports under a planned bilateral trade deal between the two trade powers.

India wants to sign a new deal with European Union (EU) during 2008 and had filed a first market access offer with Brussels, an important step in the negotiations for an EU-India trade deal which were launched last year.

Peter Power, a spokesman for the EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson, told reporters in Brussels that India had submitted initial proposals for a free trade agreement with Europe.

"I can confirm that it is certainly a useful and worthwhile opening bid for a negotiation that will have to go further," Power said.

"At this stage it would be unwise for me to put a timetable (on the talks) but certainly we would hope to see substantial movement in the next year to 18 months," he said.

EU officials complain that India remains protected by rules and regulations that restrict European business as well as by import tariffs.

EU-India trade has grown impressively over the years, from €4.4 billion in 1980 to over €46 billion in 2006. Trade with the EU represents almost 20% of India's exports and imports and the EU thus as a bloc is India's largest trading partner. The EU is also India's largest source of foreign direct investment. However, India accounts for just 1.8% of total EU trade. India attracts only 1.3% of the EU's world-wide investments. EU trade with China totalled 254 billion euros in 20006, according to EU figures. There could be a five-fold increase in trade between India and the European Union, if the two sides sign a free trade pact, said Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) in its press release last year. 

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