Home > World News > EU trade commissioner & Anand Sharma to discuss ways cross FTA hurdles

EU trade commissioner & Anand Sharma to discuss ways cross FTA hurdles

EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht and commerce minister Anand Sharma will meet on Thursday to discuss possible solutions to contentious issues that continue to block the bilateral free trade agreement, such as market access for European spirits and cars, public procurement and more openings for Indian professionals.

The two will meet a day before the India EU summit in New Delhi, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and EU president Herman Van Rompuy are expected to set a new deadline for the pact and also draw a road-map. “The meeting between De Gucht and Sharma is crucial as it would give both sides a realistic idea of when the talks could be wrapped up,” a government official told ET.

Trade officials in both countries have been working hard on the pact following the meeting of the chief negotiators in Brussels in December. “Both sides know what the other wants and the two would meet to discuss how much they are willing to move,” the official added. The pact, officially known as the broad-based trade and investment agreement, is expected to boost bilateral trade to $237 billion annually by 2015 from about $100 billion currently.

Although India has agreed to reduce duties on automobiles and high-end liquor like Scotch, the automobile industry in the EU is not satisfied and wants higher cuts. “India had offered to reduce import duties on high-end automobiles from 60% to around 30%, but European car makers want total tariff elimination which is unreasonable,” the official said.

The EU is also keen that India takes on commitment on allowing European companies to participate in bidding for government orders, but India is hesitant. “India already allows foreign companies to bid for most government awards, but it does not want to take on a commitment.

In fact, India has not signed such agreements with any other country,” the official added. Hard negotiations are also expected in the area of services where India is seeking “meaningful” market access in the form of more visas and relaxation of stringent economic needs test where the hiring firm has to establish that the job cannot be done by a European.

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