Negotiations on with EU for Free Trade Agreement: Anand Sharma

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New Delhi, Apr 5 (ANI): Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on Monday said that negotiations for a market-opening free trade and investment agreement between India and the 27-nation European Union are underway, and are expected to conclude by the end of 2010.

"Eight rounds of negotiations have been completed and on many subjects intercessionals are taking place. But it is a two-way process. We have had discussions and the new EU (European Union) Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht was also here. Our senior officials are engaged in negotiations," said Sharma on the sidelines of a National Conference on Free Trade Agreements.

"Now, this 2010 timeline has been given at the last India-EU summit held in New Delhi. But we remain optimistic. And we hope that both EU and their negotiators will also support this initiative," added Sharma.

As a bloc, the 27-nation EU is India's largest trading partner and the two have been negotiating an FTA since 2007.

But talks have dragged on over differences about market access, procurement and EU's efforts to link trade with issues, such as child labour.

Sharma, however, clearly stated that India considers the issues of child labour or India's environmental performance is an extraneous issue and said that those would be kept off the discussion table.

"There is no room for extraneous issues to be part of the negotiations. We want to conclude it as a single undertaking for trade investment in services. We are not discussing any other issue," said Sharma.

Trade between India and the EU currently stands at 78 billion euros, but is still less than one-fifth the value of the EU's trade with China.

A free trade deal between the two countries is expected to create new export opportunities worth nine billion dollars for the Indian industries. (ANI)

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