India was likely to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union by the end of the year, with the two sides expected to conclude the talks on the pact by next month, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said today.
Officials in India are currently having a dialogue with their counterparts in the EU over the terms of FTA. Another round of ministerial-level talks are scheduled in Brussels next month. Sharma will visit EU headquarters to finalise the agreement, which could open up new export opportunities worth $9 billion for India.
“We have agreed to meet in November for a ministerial review. After the negotiations in Brussles, we should be in a position to wrap it up or reach an in-principle agreement,” Sharma said in his address to the press in Dusseldorf, Germany, where he is for a Ficci business meet.
So far, there have been nine rounds of negotiations between India and EU over the proposed FTA.
Sharma said substantial progress had been made in the talks during the last round in August and it was decided that both sides should try to conclude the agreement in 2010.
The sides have been negotiating an FTA since 2007. Officials are trying hard to iron out differences in certain areas.
Ficci President Rajan Bharti Mittal said non-trade issues (such as environment and labour standards) needed to be covered under the proposed FTA, which would likely be signed when India next meets EU officials.
EU is India’s largest trading partner, with an estimated trade between the two sides during 2009-10 standing at around $75 billion.
Sharma has come with a 50-member business delegation to Germany, seeking to attract investment in sectors like research and development, technology and infrastructure, where India needs $1 trillion investment in the 12th Plan period (2012-17).
The meet in Germany is seen as a step towards achieving the bilateral trade target of ¤20 billion by 2012 from ¤13 billion in 2009, and facilitate this process through easy procedure and removal of non-trade barriers. Sharma said he was confident about reaching the ¤20-billion target earlier than 2012.
India will also take up with Germany the issue of problems faced by Indians in getting work visa and permit there. Recently, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had also said visa and work permits continued to constrain India’s economic relations with Germany. He had said Indian companies faced difficulty due to denial or delay in the issue of export licences by the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control to the German companies supplying specific technology, equipment or material to India.