EU Trade Talks on ‘Last Lap’: India Commerce Minister
The free trade talks between India and the European Union (EU), which started in 2007, were close to ending in a deal that would be the "biggest" free trade agreement (FTA) that the EU would have entered into, India's Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said Wednesday.
"Every specific wish cannot be fully met..[but we are] almost there…on the last lap. We have to have a middle ground which makes it fair to both sides," Sharma told CNBC in Singapore, adding that since April there have been regular meetings between the representatives of both sides and more are planned up to June.
The minister added that the conclusion of a "robust" trade pact between India and the EU will send a positive message to the world given weak investor confidence in the global economy.
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"The state of the world economy is such, global trade is contracting, confidence levels are very weak. The conclusion of a robust India/EU trade pact will send a positive message to the world," he added.
The euro zone debt crisis and poor economic growth in the region have acted as incentives for the EU to deepen its trade ties with India and gain access to a huge market. And for Asia's third largest economy, a deal would help boost exports and attract the investment needed to reignite growth that has fallen back to around 5 percent.
According to Sharma, one of the "sticking points" in the talks was India not being accepted as a data secure country. "The U.S. accepts India as data secure…there is a lot of innovation taking place in India…a large number of companies have their security inscription codes done in India by Indian software engineers," said Sharma.
Other important areas being negotiated in the Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) include the opening up of the services, agriculture and automobile sectors in India and the EU.
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However the minister added that "we should harvest whatever is already there, in terms of sound offers [from both sides] and benefit from it."
Total trade between India and the EU stood at $94.43 billion between April 2012 and February 2013 and was $109.86 billion in the 2011-12 fiscal year, according to India media reports.
By CNBC's Gauri Bhatia