EU keen to conclude FTA talks with India
Within a fortnight of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Brussels to attend the Indo-EU Summit, the European Union on Wednesday said it is keen to conclude the long-pending FTA with India, but both partners should first establish their objectives clearly.
"We are very much interested to have such an agreement (FTA). There are certain interests on the European side as well as on the Indian side and let's first discuss them at a proper level to establish what are our objectives, what are our levels of ambitions to fix the main elements before we go into more negotiations," EU Ambassador to India Tomasz Kozlowski told reporters in Mumbai.
Talks for the free trade agreement (FTA), officially known as the Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), have been stalled since May 2013, as both sides are yet to bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues, including data security for the IT sector.
At the 13th Indo-EU Summit held in Brussels late last month, Modi and his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel had pitched for resumption of FTA talks on "mutually agreed terms".
Kozlowski said there are certain issues which are high on agenda for FTA to be completed but both partners are very far apart.
On the EU side there are concerns surrounding industries like auto components, wines and spirits, while on the Indian side there are issues related to visas for professionals, especially those from the IT sector.
He, however, said discussions are going on at official and political levels, and there is great commitment from both the sides to continue talks for concluding this agreement.
The ambassador said European companies consider India as a prospective market and this is the reason why they are making investments here. There are around 6,000 European companies present in the country.
"Some EU companies have flagged to me that for them it would be good to use India as a production hub and to produce not only for India but for international markets as well. So, from that point of view, trade liberalisation will be perceived favourable by the international community," he said.
According to Kozlowski, for decades the 28-member block and India have developed their co-operation and have achieved a lot but it is much below potential.
"We have to think much more pragmatically on what are our common interests, how to transform our common values, and to clearly identify common interests. Such a process should take into account each others' expectations and priorities as well," he said.