India, Germany want early conclusion of free trade deal

Berlin, April 11 (IANS) India and Germany Thursday agreed to push for an early conclusion of India-EU trade and investment agreement, which is expected to substantially enhance trade and investment flow.

“We agreed on the importance of an early conclusion of a balanced India-EU Broad Based Trade and Investment Agreement,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after an inter-governmental consultation here.

Manmohan Singh said some issues related to tariff protection and intellectual property rights were holding back the progress on the talks.

India has been negotiating a broad-based trade and investment agreement with the EU since 2007.

The talks have missed several deadlines. The progress on the deal has been stalled due to disagreements on issues like import duties on automobiles, pharma and alcoholic products, and trade in services and intellectual property rights.

While the 27-nation EU has been pushing for greater market access for its products like automobiles, wines and spirits, India is seeking greater access for its professionals, the grant of “data secure” nation status by the EU.

Liberalisation of India’s financial sector, especially increasing the FDI (foreign direct investment) limit in insurance, is also crucially important to conclude the deal.

The prime minister claimed that the two sides have made progress on some issues that would help conclude the deal.

“I hope that when the ministers meet in Brussels, further progress will be made,” Manmohan Singh said.

India’s Commerce Minister Anand Sharma is scheduled to meet EU trade commissioner Karl De Gucht in Brussels April 15.

Talking to reporters here, Sharma said once concluded, it would be the most ambitious economic agreement for India.

When asked about the expectations from the Brussels meet, Sharma said, “I am pretty optimistic. We are almost there.”

Chancellor Merkel said the talks have reached a dynamic stage and the two sides have resolved differences in some sectors.

However, Merkel said the differences continued on tariffs on automobiles and other sectors, intellectual property rights and trade in services.

(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be contacted at [email protected])

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