India-EU free trade pact likely by Feb

India-EU free trade pact likely by Feb

“Intense efforts are underway. Both the sides are determined to conclude the negotiations, preferably before India-EU Summit in February here,” Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar told PTI.

Having held several rounds of talks, the two sides are likely to finalise their positions on opening of trade in services in November, sources said.

With India's over 57 per cent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) coming from services, this area is of particular interest to New Delhi while negotiating trade opening deal with any country or a bloc.

Besides, India-EU would hold bilateral talks in Geneva on the sidelines the WTO Ministerial meeting in December, they said.

India is in talks with the EU, its biggest trading partner, since June 2007 for liberalising trade in goods, services and investment through a Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA). Already 13 rounds of talks have taken place. The difficult areas holding the BTIA are the EU's demand on India to slash duty in the automobile sector, high duties on liquor and wines.

New Delhi is pressing for binding commitment on the number of visas which should be allowed to Indian professionals who go on short-term assignments to any of the the 27 nations.

The trade pact would involve slashing of duties on over 90 per cent of the trade and opening up of the mutual markets for services and investment.

Recently, European Commission director general of trade Jean-Luc Demarty met Khullar and  discuss the progress in BTIA, besides other issues. The two-way commerce stood at US$75 billion in 2009-10. India has already implemented comprehensive FTAs with countries like Japan, Malaysia and South Korea.

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