The European Union (EU) on Wednesday said it wanted to restart negotiations on a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with India, even as it awaited the release of a new Foreign Trade Policy to understand India’s stand.
India and the EU have been negotiating a trade pact, also known as the Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), for about eight years. However, this couldn’t be finalised because the EU has demanded a substantial tariff cut and the elimination of duties on European vehicles, auto components and wines & spirits. India, on the other hand, has sought more access to European markets, primarily the UK and Germany, for its professionals, under a relaxed Schengen visa regime.
“Unfortunately, we are not in a very different position from where we were a year ago. There had been no negotiations (on the BTIA) and we are waiting for the government to release the new Foreign Trade Policy, in terms of the direction and the government’s intent… We hope under the new government, circumstances exist to push it through. We are ready to talk,” Joao Cravinho, EU Ambassador to India, said here on Wednesday.
Since the National Democratic Alliance government came to power at the Centre in May last year, it has been moving slowly on clinching bilateral trade deals. It was more focused on attracting foreign investment than slashing tariffs under mutual trade agreements, officials told Business Standard.
There have been sharp differences over the EU insisting on a stricter intellectual property regime. The European Commission has also been negotiating a trade deal with the US, through which a lot of emphasis is being given on product and data protection standards.
“There are no new impediments…We still have the same issue of automobiles, where there has to be more movement. On wines & spirits, our demand is very clear and I find it difficult to believe that we cannot conclude the deal due to this. Also, there are issues on services and procurement,” Cravinho said.
So far, there have been 15 rounds of talks on the BTIA, with the last round being held in 2013.
Apart from the EU, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia and Israel have also urged the government to restart negotiations or finalise bilateral trade deals.