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Germany voices support for FTA between India and EU

Berlin: Germany has voiced its support for an early conclusion of the long drawn out negotiations between India and the European Union on a free trade agreement, saying the move will be in the interest of both countries.

An early signing of an ambitious free trade agreement between India and the EU will be an important step towards enhancing Germany's economic cooperation with India, German Minister of Economics and Technology Philipp Roesler said on Wednesday.

Addressing a bilateral meeting with Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma ahead of the opening of the second inter-governmental consultations between the two countries in Berlin, Roesler said both India and Germany will benefit from a EU-India free trade agreement.

"An early signing of the FTA, if possible this year itself, will be in the interest of both countries," the minister said, according to a press statement.

The negotiations between India and the EU on a free trade agreement, which was launched in 2007, are currently bogged down in disputes over demands by several EU countries that India should raise its cap on FDI by foreign insurance companies from 26 to 49 per cent.

The EU also has been seeking reduction in India's import duties on automobiles, wines and spirits.

The last round of FTA negotiations between the chief negotiators from India and the EU in Brussels last month failed to make much progress on these contentious issues.

Anand Sharma is scheduled to meet EU trade commissioner Karl De Gucht in Brussels on April 15 amidst high expectations that the two sides may be able to iron out their differences, finally clearing the way for the signing of the FTA, which is expected to give a big boost to the trade between India and its largest trading partner as well as to enhance European investments in India.

The FTA issue is one of the main items on the agenda of the inter-governmental consultations in Berlin and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had indicated before leaving for Berlin that he will seek Germany's support for an early signing of the EU-India trade pact.

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