India-EU free trade agreement by 2010, expects Manmohan Singh

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New Delhi, Nov 6 (ANI): Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh here today said that India and European Union have set one-year deadline to conclude a free trade agreement, at a joint press conference attended by the Swedish Prime Minister and European President at the Hyderabad House. .

Addressing media after holding talks with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Chairman of the Swedish Presidency of the EU and President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, Dr. Manmohan Singh said, " We would conclude free trade agreement within a year".

He further said an important outcome was the signing of India-EU agreement in the field of fusion energy research.

"This agreement underscores the growing importance of energy security and clean energy in our co-operation. We also reviewed the progress on the joint action plan that was adopted in 2005 and agreed on measures to speed up its implementation," he added.

He also said that India has a progressive and ambitious plan to tackle climate change.

"We have a very ambitious national plan to combat climate change. We recognise climate change is a global phenomenon. All of us have an obligation to work together and we placed before our country the eight national missions, which constitute our response. Now the question arises whether we can quantify it into a precise emission reduction targets. We haven't reached that stage so far," he added.

Seven rounds of discussions between the representatives of both sides have already taken place but so far no agreement has been hammered out.

European Union is India's largest trading partner and India exports 23 percent of its manufactured goods to countries of the group.

Duty cuts, market access on services sector, IPR as well as toning down non-tariff barriers have remained the main sticking points during the discussions and have remained main obstacles in conclusion of the agreement.

What has made the discussion even more complex is the European Commission insistence on including non-trade issues like human rights and child labor policies in the duty free trade talks.

Indian negotiators are insisting that social agenda should not be included in the Free Trade Agreement and it could be accommodated through other mechanisms.

Experts believe that adoption of Lisbon Treaty by the European Union will make the negotiations even tougher as according the new arrangement each and every bilateral agreement will be discussed in the European Parliament. By Naveen Kapoor (ANI)

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