Special Correspondent

Negotiators will work on narrowing gaps in services and pharmaceutical sectors

NEW DELHI: Close on the heels of the visit of the Japan Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama to New Delhi and his talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, high-level officials from India and Japan are likely to meet in the second week of January to take forward negotiations on inking a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).

Officials in the Commerce Ministry said here on Wednesday that negotiators would work on narrowing gaps in services and pharmaceuticals — areas of interest to India. However, Japan has several apprehensions about opening these sectors. The Indian pharmaceutical industry, which gets 45 per cent of its $20-billion revenue from exports, is seeking market access in Japan that has a tough control regime for drug imports. Japan is also apprehensive about giving access to Indian professionals in services, which contribute about 55 per cent to the Indian economy.

The talks for opening up of markets were launched in 2007 and officials on both sides have completed 12 rounds of talks.

Dr. Singh and Mr. Hatoyama had instructed their officials on Tuesday to sort out the issues in the way of the CEPA. According to Indian official figures, the two-way trade for 2008-09 stood at $10.6 billion, with imports accounting for $7.6 billion.

Comparatively, India-China trade stands at over $40.6 billion. India has signed market opening pacts with 10-member ASEAN bloc and Korea which will become operational from January 1.

Similarly, India will take up the widening trade deficit to over $20 billion with China when the Commerce Minister, Anand Sharma, visits Beijing on January 19. Mr. Sharma and his Chinese counterpart Chen Dimng will attend the meeting of the Joint Economic Group (JEG) where the issue of the large trade gap would be discussed. The Commerce Ministry had already expressed its concern over the increasing trade gap between India and China. India’s imports from China are over three times its exports to that country, according to the 2008-09 data.

In the JEG meeting, which is being convened after three years, India would also seek access for its fruits and vegetables in the Chinese market, the official said.

China, on its part, is likely to seek market economy status from India and may reiterate its concerns on India resorting to large number of anti-dumping cases against the neighbouring country.