India is keen to resume FTA talks with EU: Nirmala Sitharaman

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New Delhi, Apr 14: Asserting that India is keen on resuming long-stalled talks for trade pact with the European Union, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today said she has approached the 28-nation bloc for a meeting of chief negotiators of the two sides.

While speaking with reporters here, the minister said that after returning from the India-EU Summit in Brussels, she wrote a letter to her (EU) "counterpart seeking from her dates for the chief negotiators to meet".

India is keen to resume FTA talks with EU: Nirmala Sitharaman

"We are keen on resuming the talks," Sitharaman said.

"The EU Ambassador (Tomasz Kozlowski), I am aware, has spoken in Mumbai about we are not ready yet to resume the talks, but I want to make it plain here that India is keen on resuming the talks," she said further.

The minister has written the letter to EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom. In Mumbai yesterday, Kozlowski said that the EU was very much interested to have free trade agreement (FTA) with India.

The negotiations for the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) have been held up since May 2013 as both the sides are yet to bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues, including data security status for the IT sector.

Launched in June 2007, the negotiations for the proposed BTIA have witnessed many hurdles with both sides having major differences on crucial issues like intellectual property rights, duty cut in automobile and spirits, and liberal visa regime.

On the ongoing negotiations for the FTA with Australia, Sitharaman said both the sides have gone into all the details about goods, services and investments.

"I would like to believe that we are closer in concluding the talks," Sitharaman said. She was speaking after chairing a meeting on free trade agreements. The meeting was attended by trade analysts, specialists, former commerce secretaries and academicians.

"All have come together to talk about India's trade, trade negotiations, FTAs and the way forward," she said adding the exercise is done so that there will be a two way communication.

"Government has been repeatedly asked as to why FTAs are not getting concluded (fast)," she said, citing the example of free trade pact with the EU and Australia.

"We were able to explain lot of things in the meeting (as in) what is dominating the negotiations of FTAs, how we should move forward and how India's strengths has to be leveraged," she said.

In the meeting, a detailed presentation on FTAs was given. The deliberations assumes significance as a section of industry and exporters have raised concerns over the impact of free trade agreements on Indian market and industry.

PTI

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