EU Foreign policy Chief to Visit India for Free Trade Talks

By Dayafter Bureau, Agencies

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will arrive in New Delhi today on a two-day visit during which she is likely to strongly push for resumption of talks for the India-EU free trade agreement.

In her talks with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Mogherini will also discuss preparations for the annual India-EU summit scheduled to be held here later this year.

She will hold delegation-level talks with Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar covering bilateral, regional and global issues.

Mogherini will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The EU official is also expected to meet National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

The main focus of Mogherini’s visit is likely to be on the push for early resumption of talks on the free trade pact between the two sides.

India’s bilateral investment pacts with several European countries are expiring and citing this, the EU has been strongly pushing for moving ahead with the FTA, which is known as the EU-India Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA).

The EU has been pressing India to extend by six months, its bilateral investment pacts with several EU-member countries which are expiring soon, saying absence of the treaties could adversely impact trade ties and FTA talks.

India’s existing trade and investment pacts with The Netherlands came to an end in November while similar pacts with several other EU countries are expiring in the coming months.

The EU has been maintaining that expiry of the pacts will make it difficult for the European countries to go for fresh investments in India. The body wants India to first give the extension to the pacts and then move ahead with BTIA.

The BTIA talks have been stalled since May 2013, when both sides failed to bridge substantial gaps on issues like data security status for the IT sector.

Launched in June 2007, negotiations for the proposed agreement have witnessed many hurdles as both the sides have major differences on crucial issues.

In the last EU-India Summit in Brussels, the two sides had failed to make any announcement on resumption of the negotiations, as many bottlenecks still remained.

The two sides are yet to iron out issues related to tariff and movement of professionals but the EU has shown an inclination to restart talks.

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

On the other hand, India is asking the EU to grant it ‘data secure nation’ status. The country is among nations not considered data secure by the EU.

The matter is crucial as it will have a bearing on Indian IT companies wanting market access.