India and France on Thursday agreed to conclude the negotiations for the broad based India-European Union Trade and Investment Agreement (BITA) by summer this year with India stressing on the need of declaration of Data Adequacy Status from EU to enable EU commitments in cross border supply to be commercially meaningful to India.

This was the general consensus at the bilateral meeting held between the Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and the visiting French Minister for External trade Nicole Bricq, held in the Capital.

Mr. Sharma informed that the BITA had seen 15 rounds of negotiations. The chief negotiators would be meeting in March and hoped that this would be the last round of negotiations. “Loose ends, if any, will be dealt at the Ministerial level in April. Both sides expect to be able to close the negotiations by April and hope for a balanced and ambitious agreement,” he added.

The Commerce and Industry Minister emphasised the need of declaration of Data Adequacy Status from EU to enable EU Commitments in cross-border supply to be commercially meaningful to India. “We are also concerned with the proposed Safeguard Clause for Mode 4 commitments for contractual services supplies and independent professionals as this will greatly reduce potential benefits. We hope France takes a lead in resolving this issue,’’ he urged Ms. Bricq. Both the Ministers noted that India and France have been unable to reach the target of 12 billion Euros trade by 2012. “More needs to be done to achieve this target,” Mr. Sharma told Ms. Bricq.

He went on to explain the massive investment opportunities for the French companies in the National Manufacturing Industrial Zones coming up across the country. He conveyed to the French industry leaders, who met him separately, that there is considerable scope for French investments especially in high-tech sectors, environmental technologies, energy including renewable, infrastructure and food processing.

He informed the French business leaders that India had allowed FDI in single-brand retail up to 100 per cent which was a longstanding request particularly from the French luxury industry. Therefore, this has provided the right kind of investment environment to the French luxury brands and they should now reach out to India to expand their presence here. “The French mono brands need to look at India not only as a market for their products but also as an opportunity for production of high quality products through the integration of the millions of Indian craftsman into the global luxury value chain,’’ he added.

Mr. Sharma also said that with the liberalisation of FDI in multi-brand retail, India also expects French retailers to bring in the technologies and expertise to create a beneficial value chain from farm to fork. He expressed India’s willingness to have institutional tie-ups with relevant French institutions and National Institute of Design. “Tie-ups with fashion institutes of France would be a win-win situation for both countries,” he said.

The bilateral trade between India and France stood at over US $9.4 billion in 2012 registering a robust growth even in the backdrop of a difficult economic climate. France is India’s fifth largest trading partner and investor in Europe, and fourth largest recipient in Europe of Indian investments.

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