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EU-India FTA: And the Beat Goes On

Posted: Monday, 18 July 2016 11:58


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EU-India FTA: And the Beat Goes On

July 18: For the first time after UK decided to move out of EU, the Indian Commerce Ministry officials held a meeting last Friday with the Chief negotiators of the proposed FTA, after which it issued a Statement that the negotiations reflected the concerns of Indian industries and expressed willingness to address outstanding issues as a part of the negotiations but so far, it appears to be old wine in the new bottle

“The language of Indian negotiations reflected the concerns of Indian industries in some sectors and expressed willingness to address outstanding issues as an integral part of the negotiations,” the commerce ministry reportedly said in a statement last Friday after the meeting with the Chief negotiators of the proposed India-EU Bilateral Trade & Investment Agreement (BTIA).

delWine had reported in February this year that EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks that were initiated in 2007 and after being in the ‘final stages’ before the run up to the elections in May 2014, were back to square one with the fate of the deal now to be decided after “talks about talks” between senior officials on both sides.

Both sides had been airing optimism about making progress in the previous regime but delWine had inferred in an Article reported in April 2013 that ‘the body language indicated that they might not be close to signing, and further delays might consign the issue to the back burner. After six years and almost 20 meetings between the two sides, there were a few issues still proving to be the stumbling blocks in 2013.’ In fact, 16 rounds of negotiations reportedly took place between the two sides for the proposed FTA between 2007 and 2013, according to the report by Indian Express on Saturday.

And the Beat goes on

Nothing seems to have changed much and the beat goes on. We seem to be back to square one with no immediate Agreement or even active negotiations in sight. However, even though for the first time after BREXIT-Britain’s decision to exit the EU, a meeting was now held to discuss the status of negotiations on the free trade agreement (FTA).

The Statement on Friday by the ministry, of course, added that India is committed to proceed with the negotiations “with a hope to conclude the FTA as early as possible”. Was it a Case of old wine in a new bottle?

To add to the delays, there has been a change of parameters this time with the British exit from the EU. The Friday meeting was being considered important as it came barely a week after Britain’s business minister Sajid Javid calling on India’s commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman and discussing the possibility of a trade pact now.

Differences exist on broad contours of the proposed FTA, including the EU’s insistence on India to cut import duties on auto parts and wine and strengthen intellectual property rights regime, and Indian demand for more liberalisation in services and greater flexibility on data privacy, according to the report.

India also feels the flexibility shown by it in further opening up to foreign investments in more than a dozen sectors, should be considered positively by the EU. Sitharaman had said earlier last week that offers for the proposed FTA “have to be tempered because Britain is now out of the EU”. However, she reportedly added that the FTA with the EU won’t be worse for India.

The EU, including the UK, accounts for 17 per cent of goods exports in 2015-16, while Britain alone accounts for 3.4 per cent. The UK contributes to over half of India’s software services exports to the EU and 23 per cent of key engineering and electrical goods exports.

Pushed back by the UK Brexit, it is the opinion of delWine that customs duty reduction is still at least three years away. Going by the history, it is unlikely that the deal will be signed within the next 2-3 years. The Agreement will have to be ratified by all the member states of EU and of India and it normally takes a minimum of one year to complete the process.

For a few of the earlier Articles, kindly visit:

EU-India FTA Talks Take Off in First Gear

Decision on restart of India-EU negotiations soon

Blog: Treaty with EU likely to go on the Back Burner

EU-India FTA may soon be on Back Burner

Fine Wines from EU may get Cheaper Next Year

Subhash Arora

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Tags: EU, Indian Commerce Ministry, FTA, India-EU Bilateral Trade & Investment Agreement (BTIA), BREXIT, Sajid Javid, Nirmala Sitharaman


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