India, European free trade pact soon

India, European free trade pact soon

Basel World 2011:

A broad-based trade and investment agreement between India and four-nation European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which includes Switzerland, is expected to conclude this year to facilitate closer economic cooperation.

Union Commerce & Industry Minister Anand Sharma said seven round of negotiations have already been completed. EFTA states include Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, besides Switzerland. It is an inter-governmental organisation that promotes free trade and economic integration between the four nations.

“We are  in the advance stage to conclude the free trade agreement. We are fast tracking the negotiations with EFTA... I hope that within a month’s time, both sides will be in a position to make specific offers...,” Sharma said.

Sharma was here to inaugurate the Indian pavilion at the world’s most coveted watch and jewellery show ‘Basel World 2011’. He said India would embrace entire Europe through the comprehensive free trade agreement. India is also  deeply engaged with the 27-nation European Union for a bilateral trade and investment agreement. The EFTA members are not part of 27-nation European Union.

The trade between Switzerland and India stood at US$18 billion in 2010 up from US$15 billion last year. Swiss exports to India include machines, pharmaceutical and chemical products as well as precision instruments, while imports from India include textiles, agricultural products and components for the airline industry. There are about 170 Swiss companies doing business in India.

Sharma further said India was seeking advance scientific research and institutional linkages with Switzerland for its various sectors.

Another area of mutual cooperation has been vocational skills training modules that India strongly needs to meet the challenges that will emerge from the massive economic development taking place at present.