India, EU to decide fate of trade agreement next month

downloadSource: The Economic Times, Mar 13, 2018

New Delhi: India and the European Union will discuss next month resumption of the much-delayed Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) that hasn’t progressed much over the past five years.

Chief negotiators of the two sides will meet in April to explore the possibility and work out some roadmap for the negotiations. “EU negotiators are coming in April to discuss how to take the talks forward,” said a person aware of the development.

The BTIA talks hit a roadblock on the contentious issues of import duty on European cars and alcohol (wines and spirits) levied by India, and recognition of India as a ‘data-secure’ nation by the EU. India also wants a greater access for its professionals in the EU. Prior to the meeting, the government plans to consult the industry on products of its aggressive interest or exports in which it wants tariff concession from the European Union.

Stakeholders will also deliberate on the products they don’t want opened up. While Germany is keen on automobiles, France wants lower import tariffs on wines. “A lot of time has lapsed since the last set of talks happened. We will have to see which all new issues have cropped up in the meanwhile, especially on free movement of labour and data security front,” said an industry representative who will take part in the stakeholder meeting this week.

India and the EU had started the BTIA talks in 2007 and 16 rounds of negotiations have taken place till now. Negotiations were stalled amid the prolonged downturn in Europe and its focus on concluding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement with the US.

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India then deferred talks after the EU had banned 700 generic drugs that were tested at Hyderabad-based GVK Biosciences. Brexit and the eventual apprehension of the EU to sign a BTIA separate from the Bilateral Investment Treaty with India further extended the delay.

India’s exports to the EU in the April-December period were $38 billion, compared with $47.3 billion in 2016-17. In the same period, India’s imports from the EU were $35.2 billion and $42.3 billion, respectively.

 

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