Hope to restart India-EFTA trade talks, says Swiss envoy

NEW DELHI: Emphasising that it is time for action, Swiss Ambassador Linus von Castelmur today expressed hope of resuming the talks on India-EFTA free trade pact.

The trade talks between India and Europe Free Trade Association (EFTA) — the grouping of Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein — have been stalled on a host of issues.

Hoping to restart negotiations on the pact, Castelmur said, “we have a very optimistic view and we will be happy to resume negotiations”.

With regard to the proposed pact, he said there are certain issues related to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and data safety that have to be sorted out.

Noting that negotiations have been stuck since November 2013, he said now is time for action and that Switzerland is ready.

India-EFTA trade talks were launched in 2008. The proposed pact covers both trade in goods (industrial and agricultural products) and in services, market access for investments, protection of intellectual property and public procurement.

Negotiations were stuck on some issues related to IPR. EFTA wants India to commit more on IPR. They were also demanding for data exclusivity, which India is completely opposed to.

Data exclusivity provides protection to the technical data generated by innovator companies to prove the usefulness of their products.

In pharmaceutical sector, drug companies generate the data through expensive global clinical trials to prove the efficacy and safety of their new medicine. Switzerland has huge interest in this sector.

By gaining exclusive rights over this data, innovator companies can prevent their competitors from obtaining marketing licence for low-cost versions during the tenure of this exclusivity.

Both the sides have completed over a dozen rounds of talks so far.

Two-way trade between India and EFTA stood at $24.5 billion in 2014-15 as against $22.1 billion in 2013-14.

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