Even as a large number of consumer and NGO groups have come out in support of more “transparency’’ in sharing information on trade treaties, the Prime Minister’s Trade and Economic Relations Committee (TERC) is meeting on Friday to review various treaties including the India-EU free trade agreement (FTA).
The India-EU FTA has come under scanner with various activists, NGO and consumers groups demanding that the proceedings of the negotiations should be shared and made public warning that a lot of compromises were being made that could hurt the Indian farmers and the poor.
Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh will chair the meeting along with participation of Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee and the Union Commerce and Industry Minister, Anand Sharma. The other members of the committee include the External Affairs Minister, S. M. Krishna. The meeting will also review the state of play in the Doha Round of talks for a multilateral trade agreement under the leadership of WTO.
The Prime Minister is likely to review the progress of the ongoing India-EU FTA negotiations. Also on the agenda is the nod sought from the PM’s panel to initiate negotiations for India-Australia FTA as recommended by the joint study group.
Earlier this week, Mr. Sharma said that the India-EU Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), the most ambitious for New Delhi, is in the final stage of negotiations. As many as 12 rounds of talks have been completed. ``We hope we will be able to successfully close it soon,’’ he said.
The negotiators are trying to resolve differences on certain sensitive areas like the EU demand for further tightening of India's intellectual property rights regime and greater market access in services like banking and insurance.
The progress of the WTO talks and India’s position on various issues including agriculture would also come up for discussion during the meeting, Mr. Sharma has already suggested that India would like to follow a middle ground policy of mutual accommodation but without compromising the development dimension of the Doha Round.
The Prime Minister's panel may examine setting up a joint study group for a possible free trade pact between India and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). The country has already implemented free trade agreements with South Korea and ASEAN and has inked comprehensive pacts with Japan and Malaysia.