EU, India may reach free trade agreement deal: official

February 4th, 2009 - 12:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, Feb 4 (IANS) India’s ambassador to the European Union Jaimini Bhagwati has expressed confidence that the 27-member European Union and India will reach a deal on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Speaking at an event organised by the Belgian think rank Bruegel, Bhagwati Tuesday said that five rounds have been held since negotiations began in June 2007, EuAsiaNews reported.

Bhagwati said two more rounds of FTA negotiations were planned to take place in February and March in Brussels and New Delhi.

“I am confident that we will reach an agreement. We are coming to the table in good faith,” said the Indian envoy, adding “there is no specific time frame” for concluding the FTA negotiations.

On whether the EU’s human rights conditionality clause in trade accords with third countries can derail the negotiations, Bhagwati pointed out that there is a separate forum for discussion on human rights between the EU and India.

India’s standard position is that trade agreements should only contain trade issues.

Breugel, a think tank which is devoted to international economics, Tuesday presented its latest study titled “Beyond the WTO? An anatomy of EU and US preferential trade agreements (PTAs)”.

Andre Sapir, professor of economics at the Brussels Free University and senior fellow at Bruegel categorically said that EU and India will not sign the FTA agreement.

“It will not be possible for India to have an agreement with the EU and not with the US,” said Sapir who added in jest that he was a son-in-law of India as his wife is Indian.

He argued that the EU imitates the US in PTAs.

The study finds “a striking overlap” between the EU and US partners. Five countries have agreements with both the EU and the US: Israel, Morocco, Jordan, Mexico and Chile.

There is a domino effect, said Sapir.

The 65-page study maintains that the EU “seems to be using trade agreements to promote its views on how countries of the world should be run, and is able to enlist its trade partners to do this, albeit in a noncommittal or semi-committal way.”

“Trade policy therefore provides a vehicle for declaratory diplomacy. The US, by contrast, includes few additional provisions in their PTAs but makes sure that whatever clause it adds, be it on labour or the environment, serves its perceived interests and is actually enforceable. It plays a rather narrowly defined trade game, and sticks to it.”

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