India and the European Union (EU) on Monday resumed negotiations, after a gap of over eight years, for a comprehensive free trade agreement, a move aimed at strengthening economic ties between the two regions.
Senior officials from both sides will hold discussions till July 1.
India and the EU "today kick-start 1st round of trade negotiations in #NewDelhi," Ugo Astuto, Ambassador of the European Union to India and Bhutan, said in a tweet.
India and the 27-nation bloc on June 17 formally resumed negotiations on the proposed agreements on trade, investments and Geographical Indications (GI).
India had started negotiations for a trade pact with the EU in 2007, but the talks stalled in 2013 as both sides failed to reach an agreement on key issues, including customs duties on automobiles and spirits, and the movement of professionals.
Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal had said in Brussels on June 18 that India wished to engage with the world on modern products and look at areas where it can gain in terms of new technology and investments.
"All cards are on the table and we are coming with an open heart and an open mind... Agreements do not have to always be about gain or demands, I think agreements also have to be which is good for both negotiating teams and for the people," he had said.
India's merchandise exports to EU member countries stood at about $USD 65 billion in 2021-22, while imports aggregated to $51.4 billion.
A GI is primarily an agricultural, natural or a manufactured product (handicrafts and industrial goods) originating from a definite geographical territory. Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness, which is essentially attributable to the place of its origin.
The famous goods which carry this tag include Basmati rice, Darjeeling tea, Chanderi fabric, Mysore silk, Kullu shawl, Kangra tea, Thanjavur paintings, Allahabad surkha, Farrukhabad prints, Lucknow zardozi and Kashmir walnut wood carving.
Commenting on the pact, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) vice-president Khalid Khan said that the agreement would help in significantly promoting exports. "Sectors like apparel, leather and engineering would get a major boost if we get zero-duty access in the EU," Mr. Khan said.
"Commencement of talks on India-EU FTA is happening at a very right time. India has already seen the benefits of recently-concluded FTAs with the UAE and Australia. FTA with EU is long overdue," Mumbai-based exporter and Chairman of Technocraft Industries, Sharda Kumar Saraf said.
"Our textile and engineering exports will get a quantum jump. We need a level playing field vis-a-vis Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam etc. It will also help us compete against China and create an ecosystem to achieve merchandise exports of USD 1 trillion."