EU committee urges expediting free trade pact with India

March 5th, 2009 - 9:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, March 5 (IANS) The European Parliament’s Trade Committee Thursday expressed its disappointment with the slow pace of negotiations between the European Union (EU) and India on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), EuAsiaNews reported.
The Committee said in a report that it would like to see the FTA signed by end of 2010. The EU and India launched negotiations for an FTA in 2007.

The report drafted by British member of the European Parliament Sajjad Karim, calls for conclusion of an FTA between the EU and India which would improve market access for goods and services, covering largely all trade issues, except for public procurement that India is not willing to include in the FTA.

The Committee noted that the bilateral trade between India and the EU is expected to exceed 70.7 billion euro (about $87 billion) by 2010 and 160.6 billion euro by 2015.

The report points to the potential for an increase in EU-India trade and investment and business opportunities arising from the FTA, but recommends that an evaluation be carried out of the existing sector-specificities.

India’s average applied tariff, which is now 14.5 percent compared to EU average of 4.1 percent. Priority to be given to tariff reductions on “Fair trade” and sustainable products, says the report.

The agreement should also ensure that increasing bilateral trade brings benefits to the widest number of people, and contributes to India’s achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, including preventing environmental degradation.

The report welcomes the outcome of the 9th EU-India Summit and the revised Joint Action Plan; notably the signing of the civil aviation agreement, and the approval of a joint working programme on energy, clean development and climate change.

The EU parliament members urged the European Commission, executive body of the EU, to provide technical assistance to support Indian producers in their efforts to reach European standards, mainly concerning health, environment and social dimensions of production.

India is concerned about the lack of harmonisation of microbiological standards in the EU, costly certificates for exporting fruit to the EU and exhaustive conformity procedures of the European Commission, says the report.

The report calls on the EU and India to ensure that commitments under the FTA do not preclude access to essential medicines while India develops its capacity from a generic to a research based industry.

The members welcomed India’s commitment to a strong IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) regime and to the use of TRIPS (World Trade Organisation’s intellectual property regulations) flexibilities to meet its public health obligations, mainly in relation to access to medicines. They stressed the EU-India negotiations must be compatible with protecting biodiversity and traditional knowledge.

The Committee urged India to adopt a more open approach in granting visas to citizens, business professionals and politicians from the EU countries with multiple entries and minimum one-year duration. India was urged to ratify and implement the basic conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

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