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India, E.U. should sign free trade deal: U.K.

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FREE FLOW OF TRADE: U. K. Trade Minister, Ian Pearson (right), calling on the Union Commerce and Industry Minister, Kamal Nath, at Udyog Bhavan in New Delhi on Monday.
FREE FLOW OF TRADE: U. K. Trade Minister, Ian Pearson (right), calling on the Union Commerce and Industry Minister, Kamal Nath, at Udyog Bhavan in New Delhi on Monday.

Special Correspondent

India urges U.K. to modify definition of 'whisky'

New Delhi: The United Kingdom has proposed that India and the European Union enter into a Free Trade Agreement. The suggestion was made by the visiting U.K. Trade Minister, Ian Pearson, to Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath, who said India would be ''open'' to the idea.

Mr. Kamal Nath stressed that the country's trade engagement globally was increasing and all measures to further enlarge it would be examined.

Speaking after a meeting with the British Minister, Mr. Kamal Nath said Mr. Pearson had suggested that the two trading partners could enter into such an agreement. The U.K. has just handed over its rotational six-month presidency of the E.U. to Austria.

Market for banks

The talks during the meeting covered familiar ground with the British Minister raising the issue of opening up the market for banks from his country as well as the high customs duties on wine and spirit. In turn, Mr. Kamal Nath said Indian whisky producers had for long been urging the U.K. to modify rules relating to the definition of whisky. Based on raw materials being used for its production, Indian whisky being exported to the U.K. was currently classified as rum or gin.

Mr. Kamal Nath also highlighted the non-tariff barriers being faced by Indian exporters in the British market. The question of recognising Indian professional degrees in the medical, accountancy and legal sectors was similarly taken up during the meeting.

The two Ministers discussed issues relating to the World Trade Organisation and the recent ministerial conference in Hong Kong. Mr. Kamal Nath noted that in the area of industrial tariffs, India would continue to focus on issues relating to tariff peaks and tariff escalation in developed country markets as these had an impact on the country's exports. The second meeting of the India-U.K. Joint Economic and Trade Commission (JETCO) will be held later this month in London.

This is expected to discuss substantive measures to increase the scope of bilateral trade and investment.

The two Ministers, however, underlined the need to further strengthen economic cooperation especially in the services sector.

Currently, the U.K. is India's largest trading partner in the E.U. with two-way trade estimated at $ 7 billion in 2004-05.


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