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EU-India FTA talks to conclude in 2012: Belgium

Belgium on Friday hoped the ongoing negotiations for India-EU free trade agreement (FTA) will conclude by end of this year, as it sought access to the country’s public procurement market.

‘I hope that by end of this year, we will be able to conclude the negotiations,’ Belgium deputy Prime Minister and minister of foreign affairs Didier Reynders said at a FICCI function on Friday. Reynders said that it is important to sign this agreement to boost economic ties between India and European Union (EU).

‘We are not asking India to give more concessions but the agreement should be balanced. We need real access in public procurement,’ he said.

The two sides are learnt to have agreed to open government procurement market for each other and include it in th proposed pact.

As far as WTO is concerned, India has an observer status in the world trade body’s government procurement agreement.

But it does not mean that India is under an obligation to subject its about $125 billion government purchases to the WTO rules.

The India-EU free trade agreement, officially dubbed as the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), seeks to sharply reduce tariffs on goods and liberalise services and investments provisions.

The talks for the agreement were to conclude in 2011 but differences between the two sides on the level of opening of the market delayed the BTIA.

Inclusion of intellectual property rights (IPRs) is one of the areas on which consensus is yet to be reached.

Indian pharma companies and some non-government bodies apprehend inclusion of IPR in the agreement would affect the sector’s ability to produce and export low-cost drugs.

Speaking on the occasion, Ambassador, EU Delegation to India, Joao Cravinho said the Indian companies in the sectors like textiles, agriculture, IT would be greatly benefited from the agreement.

‘The trade agreement will definitely increase competition in several sectors but it will create business opportunities for exporters and importers. Indian consumers will benefit from the wider choices,’ Cravinho said. The two-way trade stood at $91.3 billion in 2010-11. A FICCI report said that trade between the two sides is likely to more than double to exceed $207 billion by 2015, if the trade pact is formalised.

The country and its largest trading partner, the 27-nation EU, aim to slash duties on over 90 per cent of the trade under the proposed pact.
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