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Updated: November 7, 2009 09:55 IST

India, EU put FTA on fast track

Special Correspondent
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with president of the EC Jose Manuel Barroso (right) and Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt at the India-EU summit in New Delhi on Friday. Photo: Kamal Narang
The Hindu Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with president of the EC Jose Manuel Barroso (right) and Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt at the India-EU summit in New Delhi on Friday. Photo: Kamal Narang

Even as the 10th India-EU summit decided to put the negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on the fast track, India on Friday made it clear that only trade and investment issues were up for negotiations and there was no way it would talk on non-trade issues like child labour and environmental laws.

“We are clear in our approach. No other extraneous issues will form part of the India-EU FTA negotiations. On the climate change issue, both India and the EU will make their positions at the UN Climate Change summit in Copenhagen later this year,” Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma told journalists during a joint press conference with EU Trade Commissioner Baroness Cathrine Ashton and Swedish Minister of State for Trade Ewa Bjorling.

Mr. Sharma said both India and the EU were taking forward the FTA negotiations in the spirit of partnership and both entities hoped to wrap up an agreement on FTA by the end of 2010 as was outlined by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his summit talks on Friday with EU President and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Speaking about the recent seizure of pharma shipments by some EU countries, Ms. Ashton said: “we are clear that we have no intention to stop export of generic medicines from India. Officials of the two countries will be meeting soon to sort out the issues this month,” she added.

On the issue of visas to unskilled labourers from EU countries, Mr. Sharma said any movement of unskilled labour could not be encouraged as India, as a vast nation, had enough of talent in this regard. However, he said there was no bar on the movement of technical staff who fly down to work on various projects that were being executed here.

Speaking on the occasion, Confederation of Indian Industry President Venu Srinivasan said the day-long parallel India-EU business talks decided that the trade agreement should be given a big thrust.

It was also felt that both India and the EU needed to go forward with the Doha Round. At the same time, India impressed upon the EU to ensure free movement of people to the EU from India and also putting in place a mechanism for carbon credit and carbon funding through setting up of a Carbon Fund.

Both India and the EU launched negotiations in 2007 for an FTA, but the negotiations are dragging due to differences over intellectual property rights and the EU’s negotiating stance to link trade with climate and other extraneous issues like child labour.

The pact has the potential to double bilateral trade from over $100 billion to $200 billion by 2013.

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