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India wants to resume talks with EU on FTA as soon as possible : Sitharaman

Negotiations have been stalled since 2013 as both sides are yet to bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues

BS Reporter  |  New Delhi 

Nirmala Sitharaman
Nirmala Sitharaman

India wants to resume talks with the over the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) as soon as possible, Commerce Minister said on Thursday.

"The EU Ambassador has said in Mumbai that we are not ready yet to resume the talks, but I want to make it plain here that India is keen on resuming the talks," Sitharaman said.

She was speaking at a brainstorming session held by the Commerce Ministry and foreign trade think thank Research and Information System for Developing countries, on the impact of free trade agreements (FTAs) on the domestic market and suggest ways to deal with issues and concerns.

Read more from our special coverage on "FTA"

Talks over an with the EU, officially known as the Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), had been launched in 2007.

However, negotiations have been stalled since 2013 as both sides are yet to bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues, including data security for the IT sector. The EU has also stuck to its demands of lowering tariffs on automobile and spirits, and liberal visa regime.

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Brussels last month, India and the (EU) have endorsed the 'EU-India Agenda for Action 2020' as a common road map for the strategic partnership in the next five years.

The agenda, while building on the joint action-plans of 2005 and 2008 will take into account cooperation in fields like climate change, trade and business, foreign policy but is silent on the BTIA. Britain's potential exit from the 28 member has also slowed the talks, sources in the know said.

At the session, market access in trade and services, investment and intellectual property rights featured in the discussions. Domestic industry has complained for long that India's FTAs have resulted in skewed trade, benefitting the partner country more.

India has so far implemented FTAs with countries like Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Asean.

It is negotiating several such pacts with nations like the EU, Australia and New Zealand.

Also, on Wednesday Sitharaman had said the government was looking to conclude the negotiations on India joining the proposed 16 nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, at the earliest.

The next round of RCEP talks, set to begin from April 22 in Perth, Australia might stretch longer due to a lack of consensus over services. Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia had earlier said India has offered its commitments on opening the goods and services sectors in the RCEP negotiations while other members are still struggling to meet their obligations.

Sitharaman also said the national Intellectual Property Right (IPR) policy will soon be taken up by the Cabinet for consideration, Sitharaman said. "It has already reached the cabinet secretariat and we hope it will come on the agenda of the cabinet soon," she told reporters here.

The draft report had enlisted six objectives of the policy which includes patent awareness and promotion, creation of Intellectual Propoerty, legal and legislative framework and the commercialization of patents. It had suggested to provide statutory incentives, like tax benefits linked to IP creation for the entire value chain from IP creation to commercialization. Developed countries such as the United States have repeatedly raised concerns over India's IPR laws, particularly related to the solar and pharmaceutical sectors.

First Published: Thu, April 14 2016. 19:16 IST