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India may ask EU to sign FTA 'within a narrow political window'

Unwilling to agree with the European Union's proposal to allow further tariff cuts under the proposed India-EU Bilateral Trade And Investment Agreement (BITA), India may ask the 27-nation trading block sign a free trade deal "within a narrow political window", an online media report says today.

India and EU are negotiating a Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) since June 2007, but no breakthrough has yet been achieved due to strong differences on several of the issues.

The two sides have failed to bridge the gap on various crucial issues, including grating "data secure" status by EU and increasing equity cap on FDI in insurance sector by India.

The media report says, citing sources, that commerce & industry minister Anand Sharma has been advised to deliver a stern message to Karel De Gucht, his European counterpart EU's ambitious demands.  

EU's demand is for TRIPS-plus measures is also another irritating issue. The Indian pharmaceutical industry fears that if this measures are accepted by India, this will have negative negative impact on healthcare in India and other developing and least developed countries.

The last round of negotiation between the two sides was held in May after the talks had gained some momentum from the ministerial-level talks held in Brussels previous month.

The Indian side seeks comfort and clarity on the market access being provided to India in Modes 1 and 4 and asked for assurance that these are actually effective on the ground.

In mode-1, India would need to be declared as data secure in order to provide access. Similarly, on Mode-4 i.e. movement of natural persons for providing services, India is pushing for better access and removal of safeguard clauses that may hamper the actual realisation of concessions offered by EU.

India also wants more access for domestic industry and Indian agricultural products.

The European side is concerned over some issues with regard to market access and patent issues.

Bilateral trade between India and EU in the year 2011 was US$ 108.80 billion which increased from US$ 83.46 billion in 2010. The exports in the year 2010 were US$ 41.15 billion which increased to US$ 54.74 billion in 2011.

On the other hand, imports in the year 2010 were US$ 42.32 billion which also increased to US$ 54.07 billion in 2011. For the period January- April 2012, export was US$ 16.17 billion and import was US$ 18.53 billion. The total trade for this period was US$ 34.7 billion.