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India-EU FTA negotiations have been intensified: Anand Sharma

NEW DELHI: The negotiations between India and the European Union (EU) for a free trade agreement have been "intensified", Parliament was informed today.

"Negotiations across number of tracks including trade in goods, services, investments...government procurement, customs cooperation and trade facilitation, competition and 
intellectual property rights (IPRs) are underway. Negotiations have been intensified," Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said in a written reply to the Lok Saha.

So far 15 rounds of negotiations have been held, he said. Bilateral trade in goods and services and investment flows would be enhanced from the Broadbased Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), he added.

"Government consults stakeholders including state governments, relevant ministries, industries, export promotion councils etc in order to develop India's negotiating strategy on a continuous basis as and when required," Sharma said.

The total trade between India and the 27-nation bloc stood at USD 94.43 billion during April-February 2012-13. It aggregated to USD 109.86 billion in 2011-12.

Several rounds of meetings have already been held between the two sides since the negotiations for the BTIA were launched in June 2007 but both the sides are still engaged in bridging the gaps on several issues.

EU is pressing for significant duty cuts in auto, wines and spirits and dairy products, besides hike in 
FDI cap in the insurance sector and a strong intellectual property regime.

On the other hand, India wants liberalised visa norms for its professionals, data secure status and market access in services and pharmaceuticals sector.

In a separate reply, he said that India and other like-minded developing countries are negotiating the proposed trade facilitation agreement under the WTO's Doha Round of trade talks with a view to safeguard and strengthen the interest of developing countries including the least developing nations.

"In this regard, India is closely coordinating its positions with other developing countries including the BRICS nations on various issues involved in the negotiation," he said.

It seeks to develop a set of multilateral trade rules for further expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods including goods in transit across international borders.

"It also aims at enhancing technical assistance and support for capacity building in this area. It further aims at provisions for effective cooperation between customs or any other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues," Sharma said.