India and the European Union (EU) have agreed to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) by 2010, though it appears to be a far cry as they still have differences over the inclusion of social issues like labour laws, human rights and environment.
EU wants the issues to be addressed by FTA, while India terms them “extraneous”.
“We are collaborating to make sure that everything we are doing to promote trade will also give to our people greater opportunities of job, greater opportunities of business and make sure that everything we do support our ambition on environment. It is not really about one side making the other side to do anything. It is about how we develop our negotiations together,” EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton said here today at the end of the one-day India-EU Business Summit.
Ashton also added that through the FTA signing, EU was also seeking to create better working environment for its people and businesses and not to create impediment. However, reiterating that inclusion of social agenda into the trade agreement would not be acceptable to India, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said: “Here we are talking of trade, investment and services. No other extraneous issues are part of the negotiations between India and EU we are making it clear.”
Both sides also held extensive discussions over the issue of seizure of generic drug consignments from India for poor countries transiting through the European ports. EU said it had “no intention” to halt the movements of Indian drug shipments”.
Earlier during the day, addressing a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: “We have expressed the hope that the negotiations can be completed in one year.”
He also said the agreement would seek “to increase economic opportunities, creation of jobs and wealth”.