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India-EU free trade pact talks progressing very well: Sharma

Notwithstanding the differences resulting in delay in inking of India-EU free trade agreement, commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma on Thursday said the negotiations are progressing 'very well'. Reacting to reports 'positive or otherwise' on the ongoing negotiations between India and EU on BTIA, Sharma also expressed confidence that the talks will see a 'meaningful closure' with both sides having an agreement which is 'both ambitious as well as balanced'.

'I have just returned from Brussels and I am happy to share with you, because there are speculative reports which we keep on reading positive or otherwise, you hear it from me that the negotiations for the India-EU BTIA are progressing very well,' said Sharma.

On Monday he had high-level talks with EU trade commissioner Karl De Gucht to iron out differences on various issues including duty cuts in automobile sector.

During the talks both sides failed to reach on a conclusion and has agreed to meet again in June.

Last week, Germany, one of the key members of the 27-nation European bloc, very clearly articulated the impediments in conclusion of talks, which started in 2007.

EU is pressing for significant duty cuts in auto, wines and spirits and dairy products, besides hike in FDI cap in the insurance sector and a strong intellectual property regime.

India wants liberalised visa norms for its professionals, data secure status and market access in services sector.

After talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said in Berlin that India and the EU have not yet overcome 'all the difficulties' in reaching an agreement to conclude the FTA. Merkel, who had jointly co-chaired the second round of Inter-Governmental Consultations (IGC) with Singh, had also said that increase in the FDI cap in insurance by India was 'undeniably' an important issue apart from resolution of issues such as tariff rate quota on imports of German cars, services and intellectual property rights.
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