India-EU trade pact unlikely this year

The much-delayed Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement between New Delhi and European Union is unlikely to be signed this year too.

The EU’s envoy to India, Joao Cravinho, on Friday said that though significant progress had been made in the negotiations over the proposed BTIA, it might be signed only in 2015, as not only India would have nationwide polls in April-May this year, but the eighth election to the European Parliament would also be held around the same time.

“We are too close to not to have an agreement,” said Cravinho, as he noted that the negotiations over the past seven years made significant progresses and “most chapters” of the deal were “pretty much closed” now.

Besides demanding significant duty cuts in automobiles, EU is also demanding tax reduction in wines and spirits and dairy products and a strong intellectual property regime.

India and EU launched talks for a BTIA in June 2007. The negotiations, however, hit many hurdles over the past years as two sides had serious disagreement over crucial issues.

Though differences in other areas have mostly been resolved, India and EU still have disagreements in automobiles, spirits, services and procurement. EU has been asking India to commit significant duty exemptions in automobiles, apart from seeking tax reduction in wines and dairy products. The 28-nation bloc is also seeking a strong intellectual property regime. New Delhi, on the other hand, has asked EU to recognize India as a data secure nation – a key demand, which is crucial for the information technology companies of India to seek market access.

“I would expect it to be signed as soon as there are conditions to return to the negotiating table,” said the EU envoy to India.

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