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'EU showing little interest in taking FTA with India ahead'

Annapurna Singh New Delhi, May 02, 2016, DHNS 23:55 IST
Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. pti file photo
India is not the reason behind the delay in signing of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union. On the contrary, it is the EU, which is showing little interest in the same, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Sunday.

Her response came close on the heels of NITI Aayog insisting that India should enter into a free trade pact with the EU, even if the country has to compromise, or else the benefits from rising wages in China will go to nations like Bangladesh and Vietnam.

“India has written to EU trade negotiators for dates to resume trade talks, but there has been no response yet,” Sitharaman, who chaired a consultation meeting with economists and media observers on ‘FTAs & India: the way forward’, said.

The commerce minister said that the perception of India being a laggard on global trade negotiations, needs to be fought both by the government and other stakeholders.

She also urged Indian and foreign media to see merit in the efforts made by the government on streamlining trade with other countries, despite an adverse global economic situation.

Officials, however, maintain that the negotiations on the proposed India-EU FTA have been delayed due to the uncertainty over ‘Brexit’, a possibility of Britain leaving the EU.

The UK is likely to hold a referendum in June to decide whether it should stay as an EU member country.

Meanwhile, the EU is insisting that India must agree to lower duties on automobiles as a pre-condition for resuming FTA negotiations. India says that it has the right to protect its domestic auto industry.

The NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant had last week said that it was “better to compromise on wine and cheese and on large vehicles to push for our apparel exports with Europe” so that India could penetrate these global markets, because “this is one sector which will enable us to create large-scale jobs”.

Speaking on the occasion, Ram Upendra Das, Professor at Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), which organised the meeting, said, the question is not whether we should have FTAs with countries across the globe or not but it is “when and how soon should we have”.

FTAs have recently been criticised on the ground that these have contributed only in increasing Indian imports.

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