India, EU row over FTA

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New Delhi, Nov 29 (UNI) Differences appear to have cropped up between the European Union and India on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) being negotiated between the two entities.

Trade and Commerce Minister Kamal Nath told reporters on the sidelines of the 8th India-EU BUsiness Summit here that the FTA was likely to be concluded by 2008.

The remark was made in the morning by the minister after addressing a meeting with EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mendelson, where the heads of Indian and EU business chambers were also present.

Later in the evening, while addressing the closing session of the business summit, Mr Nath clarified that the FTA was likely to be concluded by the next India-EU Summit in France.

The India-EU Summits are an annual affair held alternatively in India and a country which is a member of the EU.

The Presidency of the EU at present is with Portugal.

Mr Mendelson, however, parried the question at the press conference he addressed, saying that the FTA would be signed after it was negotiated. He also indicated that content of the agreement was more important then the timeline.

Another crucial point of difference related to the issue of including government procurement in the proposed FTA.

While Mr Mendelson said issues like public procurement, trade facilitation and competition policy were vital for economic growth, Mr Nath said '' we will not include points like public procurement in the talks of India-EU FTA.'' ''EU would like to see openness in services and investment extended into government procurement in India, and would reciprocate any new access India offered,'' Mr Mendelson said.

India has also objected to including issues like animal welfare in the FTA negotiations.

''These are extraneous issues. We can only move forward if EU does not bring any such issues in the negotiations,'' Mr Nath said.

India's Commerce Minister also made a reference to non-tariff barriers in his address at the business summit, while Mr Mendelson favoured the country lowering barriers .

Referring to reports of Indian industry using child labour, some of which emanated from European NGOs, Mr Nath had a dig saying :'' Our NGOs are equally worried about the force feeding of animals that is going on in the EU.'' The two sides have completed three rounds of talks on the FTA, while the fourth one is scheduled in the next two weeks.

The main EU Summit comprising political and economic aspect13 scheduled for tomorrow.


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