India-EU free trade pact talks to conclude by year-end

New Delhi: The European Union has exuded confidence that negotiations for the proposed free trade agreement between the 27-nation block and India would be concluded by the end of this year.

The European Union’s Ambassador to India, Ms Dani Smadja, has said that the negotiations for the proposed Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) are on track.

“What is clear is that there is a will on both sides to finish the negotiations this year. My impression is that they are on track,” Ms Smadja told EurActiv, an European website, in an interview.

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister’s Trade and Economic Relations Committee (TERC), which is in favour of inking BTIA, had also reviewed the ongoing talks.

Officials from both the sides are engaged in resolving differences on key issues like opening up of markets in auto and auto components, wines and spirits, and intellectual property rights and services.

Mr Smadja said that negotiators will meet this week.

According to sources, both the sides have agreed on four of the 12 key areas, which have been in negotiations since June 2007 for BTIA, aimed at freeing vast markets of about two billion people to mutual advantage.

While the EU wants India to eliminate or drastically reduce the tariff on completely built units (CBUs)and completely knocked down units (CKDs) in passenger cars, the Indian negotiators are resisting the demand to protect the domestic industry.

Besides, the EU also wants India to open its services sector including foreign direct investment in retail, banking and other financial services.

The 27-nation bloc has also been pressing India to agree for an intellectual property rights regime over and above what the country has agreed multilaterally in the WTO.

On the areas which still need a lot of bargaining, she said: “The final deal has to be shaped with many different elements. It has to be a package in which you have all the elements that are important for both partners. Striking the right balance between what you want and can realistically get is a difficult exercise.”

EU is India’s largest trading partner. Bilateral trade in 2009-10 aggregated $75 billion.

According to an industry chamber report, India-EU trade is likely to more than double to exceed $207 billion by 2015, if the trade pact is formalised.

India has already implemented free trade agreements with the ASEAN, South Korea and Singapore. The country has signed two major pacts with Japan and Malaysia in February.