India-EU free trade agreement negotiations likely to resume soon, says Union minister Suresh Prabhu

New Delhi: Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu on Monday indicated that negotiations on long-stalled free trade pact between India and the European Union could resume soon.

"We have started working on India-EU FTA (free trade agreement) again. We have invited them and are looking at it," he said at a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) event in New Delhi.

Prabhu said that even after 16 rounds of talks, the negotiations have not moved further.

Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia said that Chief negotiators of both the sides will be meeting later this month.

"We hope that this will lead to a resumption (of negotiations). We have no conditions (to resume talks). The only condition that we have is there will be no pre-conditions. We will not give any guarantees until we sit down on the tables and know what we are getting," she said.

File photo of Suresh Prabhu. AFP

File photo of Suresh Prabhu. AFP

She said that EU had prescribed certain pre-conditions to resume the talks and that "probably is the only stalemate", she added.

The chief negotiators of India and EU held discussions last year here on the proposed pact, officially dubbed as Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA). Both sides expressed willingness to work in a time-bound manner on the pact.

The negotiations for the pact have been held up since May 2013 as both the sides are yet to bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues.

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

The two sides have to iron out differences related to movement of professionals.

Besides demanding significant duty cuts in automobiles, the EU wants tax reduction on wines, spirits and dairy products, and a strong intellectual property regime.

On the other hand, India is asking it be granted data secure nation status by the EU. The country is among the nations not considered as data secure by the EU.

The matter is crucial as it will have a bearing on Indian IT companies wanting market access.

Two-way trade between India and the EU dipped to $88.4 billion in 2015-16 from $98.5 billion in the previous fiscal.

Talking about the growing protectionism globally, Prabhu said that countries are reviewing and re-strategising their positions, but India has decided to engage positively with its trading partners.

"We have decided that we will be a country which will engage with all of our traditional friends and at the same time start making new friends," he said.

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Updated Date: Mar 26, 2018 18:56:15 IST

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