Timeline difficult for India-EU free trade: Sharma

Indicating that differences persists between India and European Union over their proposed free trade agreement, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said even the "best of astrologers would not know" about the timeline. 

He only expressed hope that it would be concluded "very soon". 

India is in talks with the EU , its biggest trading partner, since 2007 for liberalising their commerce in goods, services and investment through an FTA. 

The FTA would involve slashing of duties on over 90 per cent of the trade and opening of the mutual markets for services and investment. 

The two sides with trade of USD 75 billion (2009-10), had earlier vowed to conclude the negotiations within 2011. 

The Trade and Economic Relations Committee (TERC),headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently reviewed the progress of the talks and is likely to meet again soon. 

"I can say that without giving a timeline or deadline it (India-EU FTA) is in the final stage ...the best of astrologers would not know " Sharma told PTI. 

However, he hoped it would be completed,"very soon", adding that the multilateral and bi-lateral negotiations are taking place on the "complex matters". 

Officials from both sides have remained engaged in resolving difference on key issues like opening of markets in auto and auto components, wines and spirits, and intellectual property rights and services. 

The two sides are believed to have agreed on four of the 12 key areas for FTA, aimed at freeing vast markets of about two billion people to mutual advantage. 

On automobile industry's concerns, Sharma has said that India would protect its interests. 

Indian automobile industry has apprehensions that with the FTA, the import duties on passenger cars may be slashed. At present, high-end passenger cars attract import duty of over 100 per cent (basic plus other levies). 

The fear is that if India agrees for aggressive cuts in these duties, there would not be any incentives for global auto majors to set up their manufacturing base in the country.

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