EU-India FTA, a case of so near yet so far

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Brussels, Dec.10 (ANI): Recognizing that substantive progress has been made in several areas of bilateral cooperation, India and the European Union (EU) on Friday agreed to expedite the process of concluding Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations by the spring of 2011.

Briefing media here after the end of the daylong 11th EU-India Summit here, India's Commerce Secretary, Rahul Khullar, said that both sides have agreed to intensify work on all pending areas and to meet at the chief negotiators level on at least a monthly basis.

Khullar revealed that he would have a meeting with the EU's Director-General of Trade in early 2011, and added that a ministerial meeting would take place in March 2011.

Elaborating on the Joint report on the state of play of negotiations for the EU-India FTA, Khullar said summits between the two sides have been held on three occasions after the launching of this initiative for an FTA pact in June 2007.

He said that report inked on Friday reflected that significant progress had been made in most areas of negotiations and a closure has been achieved in several areas.

"Engagement has been intensified in all areas requiring additional work, and both sides intend to make all necessary efforts to conclude the negotiations in the spring of 2011," Khullar said.

Referring to the actual negotiating texts, Khullar said that the chapter on trade in goods is well advanced, adding that tariff negotiations are making good progress, preparing the ground for exchanging revised offers.

According to Khullar, the joint report says that once these revised offers are in place, it will substantially improve market coverage and access, and be in favour of India.

As far as the trade defence agreement was concerned, he said most aspects of it have been covered, and added that minor work on safeguards remained outstanding.

He also said that on the issue of Rules of Origin (RoO), substantive progress has been made on this protocol, and added that negotiations on specific rules will intensify.

He revealed that the joint report has acknowledged that an agreement has been reached in principle on ambitious SPS and TBT chapters, which would contribute towards facilitating exports and reducing costs of compliance for exporters, while respecting each party's legitimate public policy objectives.

Regarding the chapter on services, he said progress has been made, and both sides have agreed that the final outcome should provide "real additional market access opportunities to both sides".

He said that on investment and intellectual property rights (IPRs) work would be further intensified, and would reflect the legislative developments in both the EU and India.

Chapters that were already finalized included competition, customs and trade facilitation dispute settlement and mediation.

Detailed negotiations are yet to take place on the bilateral procurement chapter. The expert level interaction would take place this month. Negotiations on the transparency chapter are underway, while discussions on sustainable development are continuing. By Smita Prakash (ANI)

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