India Likely to Restart Free Trade Talks With EU

By Nayanima Basu

Dec. 21 — India is planning to commence the stalled free trade agreement (FTA) talks with the European Union by discussing all pending issues “afresh” even as both sides gear up for a stock-taking meeting next month.

Ever since the Narendra Modi-led government came to power, it refused to restart the talks for the FTA, or Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) as it is known officially, because it “does not agree” with the way the previous United Progressive Alliance government negotiated the pact, a senior official told Bloomberg BNA on condition of anonymity.

The official also said, after coming to power, the government had made it clear to the 28-member bloc that it will not resume the talks, which stalled in 2013, unless it agrees to begin discussing all issues from the “very start.”

Predictably, the EU had opposed the stance taken by the present government and had asked India to kick-start the talks from the point it left off negations, according to the official.

Consequently, when the EU imposed a ban on the sale of drugs tested in India's GVK Biosciences Lab, it refused to sit for the meeting of the chief negotiators from both sides in August, the official said.

But now both seem to be on the “same page,” with India and EU agreeing to go for a “fresh round of negotiations,” especially on crucial areas such a reduction and subsequent elimination of tariffs in wines, spirits and automobiles, a long-pending demand of the EU, the official added.

India and EU started the talks in 2007 and have missed several deadlines to conclude the deal.

Apparently, Minister of Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman had met EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem on the sidelines of the recently concluded 10th ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Nairobi, Kenya, and had a brief discussion on restarting the talks, the official said.

Meanwhile, the annual EU-India Summit is going to be held in Brussels in April. It was supposed to be held this year but was delayed amid the GVK issue.

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerome Ashton in Washington at