Positive start to new round of India-EU FTA talks

Bonn: A fresh round of negotiations for the long-awaited free trade agreement (FTA) between India and the European Union opened on a "positive" note on Monday, giving a "renewed momentum" to take the discussions forward.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma held talks with EU Trade Commissioner Karl De Gucht at Brussels.

"Gucht received Sharma in Brussels today. They had a positive meeting which has provided a renewed momentum to bring the negotiations forward. We look forward to renewed progress in the coming months," EU Trade Spokesman John Clancy told PTI from the EU headquarters.

The meeting is seen as the last ditch effort to resolve differences between the two sides before India gets into the election mode when manoeuvring of decisions regarding the pact would become difficult.

Sharma was accompanied officials, including Commerce Secretary S R Rao, Additional Secretary Rajeev Kher.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and German Chancellor Angela Merkel last Friday had held out the prospects for signing a "broad-based, ambitious and balanced FTA in 2013."

India and the 27-nation bloc have been negotiating the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) since June 2007 and have missed several deadlines to conclude the talks due to differences on the level of opening up of the markets.

Both sides are engaged to bridge the gap in matters such as tax issues in automobiles, dairy products and movement of professionals across borders. even after 16 rounds of talks.

India is demanding for a data secure status, which has been preventing flow of outsourcing business and free flow of key information such as patient information for tele-medicine.

The EU is pressing for a hike in the FDI limit in the insurance sector to 49 per cent from 26 per cent.

In pharma, the EU has been pushing for rights to seize drugs transiting through its territory in case its custom authorities suspect intellectual property violation, a demand which India has so far refused to yield to.