The European Union today said it was expecting that negotiations for a comprehensive free trade pact with India would be completed by year-end though issues like duty concession on wines and automobiles were yet to be resolved.
"Yes, that is our expectation (to conclude by the year-end). There is never a guarantee but everybody is working towards that time-line," European Union Ambassador and Head of Delegation to India Joao Cravinho told reporters here.
However, clarity on issues like duty concessions on wines and automobiles from the Indian side and liberalising visa regime for Indian professionals from European side needs to be worked upon, Cravinho said on the sidelines of an interactive meeting with Members of European Parliament on India-EU FTA organized by FICCI.
"They continue to be more difficult areas (auto and wines). There has been no concrete development on these areas. We have some of the issues like visa liberalisation from our member states," Graham Watson, Chairman, European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with India, who was also present at the occasion, said.
Cravinho hoped that greater clarity is expected on the pact during the visit of Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma's to Brussels in June.
"We hope when Minister Sharma goes to Brussels there will be an occasion for some clarity on the horizons. When the political leadership meets in June perhaps we can have a breakthrough," the ambassador said.
India is in talks with the EU, its biggest trading partner, since 2007 for liberalising their commerce in goods, services and investment through an FTA, officially known as Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA).
"Indian side is looking at tariffs that exist on automobiles, wines and spirits and so on. I hope we can get an agreement that recognises the wider common interest. We are both worried about slowing levels of economic growth if we can achieve a broader agreement," Watson said.
Indian automobile industry has apprehensions that with the free trade pact, the import duties on passenger cars may be slashed. At present, high-end passenger cars attract import duty of over 100% (basic plus other levies).
The fear is that if India agrees for aggressive cuts in these duties, there would not be any incentives for global auto majors to set up their manufacturing base in the country.
On the visa issue, Cravinho said: "We can liberalise visa regime. I hope we can significantly improve the opportunity for India to send people to EU and send services to the European companies".