All is not lost on India-EU trade frontierDecember 10th, 2010 - 1:27 pm ICT by ANI
By Smita Prakash
Brussels, Dec.10 (ANI): It has been like waiting for Godot. And proverbially, Godot will not arrive in time for the Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, either. India-EU trade ties will not be ironed out during the high level summit being held here either, but some steady steps would be taken towards a trade agreement, a government official said. In June of this year, it had seemed as if the India-EU trade deal had run into serious problems and all hope had been abandoned, said the Indian Government official.
In the past two months however, rapid strides have been made between negotiators and decks have been cleared for initialing by the Prime Minister. This is however not the final sealing of the broad-based bilateral trade and investment agreement (BTIA) that was expected.
In the past two years, differences have emerged on issues such as intellectual property rights, the environmental and on human rights. “Essentially, the decks have been cleared for finalizing the agreement,” said the official, and he added that it is expected that by March or April 2011, the final pact will be ready for signing.
High-level negotiations over the past two months have been on to break the logjam on contentious issues, but India has been clear that it will not compromise on the intellectual property rights issue.
India has made clear that it will adhere only to its own domestic legislation and will also not compromise on the generic drugs issue.
The flash point on this was when EU customs authorities seized authorized general pharmaceutical products that were in transit to Latin America and Africa. Intellectual property holders in the EU thought the goods were not for sale in the EU and were merely passing through Netherlands.
The seized shipments were released, but the delay and the embarrassment caused has led to serious roadblocks in India-EU trade negotiations.
According to India, these seizures violate the provisions of the WTO agreement on Trade Related Aspects of IPRs (TRIPS), as these drugs were off patent both in India as well as in the countries where they were being shipped.
India lodged a complaint with the WTO against the EU for their (EU) Customs norms that permitted EU member countries such as the Netherlands in this case to confiscate consignments of generic drugs in transit from India to certain Latin American and African countries.
India had also pointed out that such seizures would adversely affect the availability of life-saving medicines to poor people in several countries at affordable prices.
There are indications that the EU might amend its regulations on the seizure of drugs in transit to India’s satisfaction and rule out any such confiscation in the future.
The EU is India’s largest trading partner accounting for 20 percent of Indian trade. India, on the other hand, accounts for only 1.8 percent of EU’s trade and attracts only 0.3 percent of European foreign direct investment (FDI).
Quite naturally, India and EU are hoping that the summit meet on December 10 will generate the political momentum required to propel the trade agreement in the coming months.
Dr Manmohan Singh meets with Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, and Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, in Brussels early today.
A EU-India free trade agreement may not be only signed during this visit, but the political mandate to speed up the process, will be given, which will probably see a culmination by March or April 2011.
The BTIA has been facing hurdles for more than a year now with the European Nations more concerned with dealing with immediate financial worries like the bank collapse, bailouts and such financial catastrophes.
However, in the past two months, momentum has been built up again, and with this visit by the Prime Minister, the decks are cleared for a renewed engagement with the EU.(ANI)
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