Following the successful completion of its free trade agreement (FTA) with Australia and the UAE, India is now focused on getting the proposed trade agreements with the European Union and the UK off the ground.
A team of negotiators, led by Commerce Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam, is on a tour of Brussels and London this week to expedite talks on the two FTAs that could lead to wider openings for Indian goods in the two markets and also expand opportunities for Indian professionals.
“The Commerce Secretary and his team met their EU counterparts in Brussels on Thursday. Talks took place on the proposed FTA for goods and services, the investment promotion agreement and geographical indications (GIs). The two sides also finalized the next steps for moving ahead with formal negotiations, ”a source tracking the matter told BusinessLine.
Ambitious EU pact
The India-EU FTA is set to be an ambitious pact covering areas including goods, services, investments, GIs, government procurement and sustainable development.
“The two sides have decided to negotiate agreements on trade, investment and geographical indications on separate tracks. But India is insisting that they should be all concluded together at the same time. There needs to be a definite understanding on the matter between the two sides on this issue, ”the source said.
The issue of inclusion of sustainable development, that was initially an area of contention between the two sides, has, however, been sorted out with India ready to mention its climate goals, the source added. “India has, on its own, started working on meeting the climate goals it has set for itself at various global forums. It does not have a problem any more in dealing with such issues, ”the official said.
The EU is India’s third largest trading partner, accounting for € 62.8 billion worth of trade in goods in 2020 or 11.1 per cent of the total Indian trade, after China and the US, per EU figures. The EU is also the second-largest destination for Indian exports (14 per cent of the total) after the US.
Interim deal with UK
With the UK, India’s FTA negotiations are at a more advanced stage. The two sides started the third round of formal negotiations on Friday in London with a focus on sealing an interim deal that could pave the way for a full-fledged free trade pact.
With both the EU and the UK, India is looking for greater market access in labor-intensive items such as textiles, leather, gems & jewelery and marine products. It is also keen for easier and more liberal visa norms for its professionals and students.
The UK and the EU both want India to give duty concessions in items such as wines and liquor and open up areas such as government procurement and financial services.
April 08, 2022