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India, European Union officials to meet tomorrow on free trade agreement

NEW DELHI(PTI): Senior officials of India and the European Union are expected to hold discussions tomorrow on the stalled negotiations for the proposed free trade agreement.

“Both the sides would review the progress of talks and ways to move forward,” an official said. The meeting is happening after a gap of over 30 months. Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia had recently said that it would be a stocktaking meeting.

“The meeting will decide does this negotiation have a future. Hopefully in the interest of everyone it does. Then we would go ahead,” Teaotia had said.

Expressing disappointment and concern over the EU banning sale of around 700 pharma products, clinically tested by GVK Biosciences, India had in August last year deferred FTA talks with EU. In May 2013, India and the 28-nation bloc failed to bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues, including data security status for the IT sector.

Launched in June 2007, the negotiations for the proposed Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), also known as FTA, have witnessed many hurdles with both sides having major differences on crucial issues.

The issues include easy movement of professionals and data security status demand from India. Besides demanding significant duty cuts in automobiles, EU wants tax reduction in wines and spirits and dairy products and a strong intellectual property regime.

The free trade pact is aimed at reducing or significantly eliminating tariffs on goods, facilitate trade in services and boost investments between the two sides. The two-way commerce in goods between India and the EU stood at $98.5 billion in 2014-15.

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