India, EU officials to deliberate on FTA tomorrow

The chief negotiators of India and the European Union will hold meetings here tomorrow with an aim to conclude talks for a proposed market opening pact this year. 

India's chief negotiator, Commerce Ministry Special Secretary P K Chaudhary and EU Chief Negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero will kick off the two-day meeting from tomorrow in the capital, an official said. 

"The negotiations are very much on track the chief negotiators are meeting to prepare the ground for Secretary level talks scheduled this month in Brussels," the official said. 

Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar is expected to meet his EU counterpart in Brussels on April 7-8. 

Both the sides are aiming to conclude the talks for Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), which would open commerce in goods, services and investment, this year. 

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma had recently said that the talks are in the advance stage. 

Both the sides have completed 12 rounds of negotiations. The talks, which started in 2007, had hit roadblocks many times as there was pressure from some of the EU members that social issues like environment and labour standards should be covered in the agreement. However, India has been resisting these efforts. 

The two sides recently stepped up efforts to resolve the pending issues as they want to conclude the negotiations by year end. 

BTIA will also liberalise trade in services, an area of strength for India, which faces hurdles like visa problems in several EU member countries like Germany and Britain. 

EU is India's largest trading partner. The bilateral trade in 2009-10 aggregated to USD 75 billion. 

According to an industry chamber report, India-EU trade is likely to more than double to exceed USD 207 billion by 2015, if the trade pact is formalised. 

India has implemented free trade agreements with the ASEAN, South Korea and Singapore. The country has signed two major pacts with Japan and Malaysia in February.

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