‘India-EU trade pact ready by early 2011′

December 7th, 2010 - 9:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Dec 7 (IANS) A key free trade accord between India and the European Union that remains inconclusive despite protracted negotiations will be finalised by early 2011, an official said Tuesday.

The broad-based trade and investment agreement is expected to increase the bilateral trade by about 30 percent, to touch 100 billion euros when it gets operational.

“Negotiations are progressing well and we are hopeful of concluding the agreement in early 2011,” Secretary (west) in the external affairs ministry Vivek Katju told reporters.

The agreement was earlier to be finalised for signing during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s trip to Brussels to attend the India-EU summit on Friday.

The bilateral trade in goods and services in 2009 was around 70 billion euros. The EU economic bloc of 27 countries is the largest trading partner of India.

“The agreement,” Katju said, “will give a fillip to bilateral trade which could increase to 100 billion euros.”

Katju refused to divulge details on what is holding the two sides back from wrapping up the agreement.

“There are certain confidentialities to the matter that ought to be respected. There has been progress and I won’t say anything beyond that,” he said.

The two sides have already agreed to eliminate tariffs on 90 percent of all tradable goods. But what the two sides are currently discussing, according to sources, is an increase in this figure, with India asking the EU to abolish tariffs on 95 percent of goods, and the EU calling on India to offer a tariff slash on 98 percent of goods.

According to the sources, the key sticking points that remain unresolved include a clause on sustainable development, which seeks to bind India to a range of human rights and environmental commitments. Intellectual property rights is another area where India and the EU have found it tough going to find common ground.

Manmohan Singh leaves on a three-day two-nation European trip Thursday that will also take him to Berlin for summit talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel. He returns home Sunday morning.

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