Millennium Post

India-EU ministerial meet unlikely as FTA talks fail

In a setback to talks for the long-pending India-EU FTA, the chief negotiators’ meet on  Friday failed to bridge ‘substantial gaps’ on crucial issues, including insurance and data security status for IT sector, creating a bleak possibility of a ministerial meet next month.

The two sides began negotiations to iron out differences on various vexed issues from 13 May, spearheaded by their chief negotiators who joined them on 15 May to reach a final position on the proposed trade pact.

However, the week-long talks ended with ‘substantial gaps’ after which sources clearly indicating that there might not be a ministerial meet, as was scheduled for next month, since the brain-storming session could not achieve any major deliverables.

The sources noted that ‘a sense of urgency’ as was witnessed in the previous rounds from the European side was ‘missing’ this time and asserted ‘both sides failed to achieve any major breakthrough which was expected from this meet as this was treated as the penultimate round’.

They also maintained that with ‘failure’ of this round, now the inking of the agreement seems unlikely in the current regime in India, which will be soon poll bound.

While Indian side was led by additional secretary in the Commerce Ministry Rajeev Kher, Ignacio Garcia Bercero headed the European Union (EU) side.

Launched in June 2007, the negotiations for the proposed Broadbased Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) between India and the 27-nation European bloc has witnessed many hurdles with both sides having major differences on crucial issues.

While on the first day itself, the EU side made it clear that hiking FDI cap to 49 per cent in the insurance sector was must for concluding the negotiations, Indians expressed its inability to do so without an approval from Parliament.

From Indian side among other issues, granting data secure nation status to it by EU was very crucial as it will have a bearing on Indian IT companies wanting market access. Besides demanding significant duty cuts in automobiles, EU is pressing for tax reduction in wines and spirits and dairy products and a strong intellectual property regime.
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