India hopes to sign free trade pact with European Union in 'foreseeable future'; exports likely to reach peak level this year

  • commerce secretary Anup Wadhawan said the EU expressed some concerns about India's service sector

  • India may surpass the export peak level this year

  • Food exports stagnated slightly on price issues

Mumbai: The government on Friday expressed hope that it would be able to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) in the "foreseeable future".

"We will find the necessary balance between ambition and sensitivity in the foreseeable future to have trade agreements with various countries including the EU...The FTA will happen soon I am sure," commerce secretary Anup Wadhawan said on the sidelines of the National standards conclave organised by the commerce ministry and CII.

Asked if auto is the only concern, he declined to elaborate but said that auto component is one of the few sectors something which is at the cutting edge of global standard and "we have to virtually find a way forward."

 India hopes to sign free trade pact with European Union in foreseeable future; exports likely to reach peak level this year

Representational image. Reuters

He also added that the EU has expressed some concerns about India's service sector. Wadhawan seemed optimistic about India surpassing the export level that had peaked during 2013-14.

"We will reach a peak level this year. Our exports had peaked at $314 billion in 2013-14 and I think we will go past that peak," he said.

In 2013-14, the country's merchandise exports touched $314.4 billion level. After that, exports came under immense pressure again due to global slowdown.

On the agriculture exports showing inactivity, he said, "Food exports stagnated a bit because of price issues. Global commodity prices have fallen but the volumes have not come down. The quantities are still rising. We export over $40 billion worth of agriculture products. We are the largest  exporters of rice in the world."

The third quarter showed a slowdown in exports but the secretary attributed it to the global prices.

"Petroleum prices are coming down. Our exports are 15 percent petroleum products and that 15 percent is lagging. Agriculture commodity prices have come down worldwide and agriculture export is about $40 billion out of over $300 billion. So all the pressures are there and the global slowdown is coming so that will obviously have its effect," he said.

He added that certain categories like grapes have recorded a huge jump on the back of the trade war between China and US.

Asked how free trade and opening up of borders would materialise in future when global giants US and China are at  loggerheads, he said,"I am sure better sense will prevail at a global level and countries will not destabilise the WTO."

It is a very very useful framework, a very useful set of rules which brings some order and predictability to global trade, so I am sure the world community and the community of nations will not allow the WTO to be disrupted, he said.

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Updated Date: Feb 08, 2019 18:53:09 IST


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