India-EFTA FTA will conclude next year: Nath

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New Delhi, Apr 29 (UNI) Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath today said the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) will be concluded next year.

''We started negotiations in January and should complete it a year,'' said Mr Nath.

Switzerland Federal Department of Economic Affairs head Doris Leuthard said bilateral trade between both countries last year touched three billion dollars and the country has assigned highest priority to the India-EFTA FTA. ''It will be important for both sides to see the FTA conclude by next year.'' Mr Nath said both sides discussed WTO issues in the context of the forthcoming ministerial meeting. However, Mr Nath said, ''There should be a substantive paper by then and all technical work should be completed. We cannot have divergence in forms of brackets because the ministerial meet is only for three days.'' With regard to direct investment, Ms Doris said India was the ''top priority for us in Asia,'' and hoped to invest more.

Switzerland is ranked tenth in the top foreign investor in India with 634 million dollars in investment between April 2000- December 2007.

Switzerland's Economic Minister is on a six day visit to improve access to the Indian market for Swiss firms and for promoting her country as a business destination.

During her visit, she will also meet Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal.

Ms Leuthard is being accompanied by a business delegation of 25 people. They will also visit Bangalore, Mysore and Mumbai.

India and Switzerland are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship and Establishment between the two States. In 1948, Switzerland was the first country to sign such a treaty with India.

UNI PBB MP AS1531

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