EU cos want India-EU FTA to open markets, meet on April 15

Ahead of the ministerial meeting on the India-EU free trade agreement (FTA)in Brussels on April 15, European business associations have said the pact must ensure equal opportunity for market participation to companies from both sides and protect international property rights (IPR) standards.

In a statement, they urged EU trade commissioner Karl De Gucht and Indian commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma to take necessary steps in this regard during the negotiations on Monday.

They said India-EU trade grew from 759 million euro in 2003 to 3 billion euro in 2010. While these figures showed that the recent years had witnessed a substantial increase in trade and investment between the two sides, the volumes remained modest.

"It is therefore clear that numerous trade and regulatory barriers still prevent a higher degree of investment and economic integration. Many studies show that the removal of the obstacles through a trade agreement would generate important gains for both parties," they said.

India is in talks with the EU since June 2007 for liberalising their commerce in goods, services and investment. The FTA would involve slashing of duties on over 90 per cent of the trade and opening up of the mutual markets for services and investment.

Europe wants access to a big market of 1.2 billion potential customers in India. Besides, the EU wants significant duty cuts in sectors like auto and wines and spirits.

The 14 associations representing industries such as pharmaceuticals, chemical, ceramic, digital technology, textile, retail, food and drinks and financial services said European companies' business links with India extended beyond import and export to include alliances and partnerships in supply chains, joint research projects and significant direct investments.

This agreement, therefore, should also "act as a catalyser of important administrative and economic reforms" that would improve the overall business environment for companies realise the full potential of bilateral trade in crisis times, they said.