India, EFTA to resume negotations for FTA in Geneva
India and the EFTA, a bloc of four European countries including Switzerland, will resume the long-stalled negotiations for a proposed free trade agreement this week in Geneva to iron out differences. A team of officials from the commerce ministry is visiting Geneva to resume talks, an official said. “The three-day negotiations will start from tomorrow,” the official added. The last round of negotiations was held in November 2013 and thereafter the negotiations have remained suspended.
In June this year, a meeting between the chief negotiators of India and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) was held in New Delhi to take stock of the ongoing negotiations for Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA). Both sides had expressed willingness to jointly address the major outstanding issues and agreeing to an early resumption of negotiations and concluding a balanced agreement in a time-bound manner. The trade pact talks had started in October 2008.
So far, 13 rounds of negotiations have been held at the level of chief negotiators. The four EFTA members are – Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. The proposed pact covers trade in goods and services, market access for investments, protection of intellectual property and public procurement. Negotiations were stuck on some issues related with intellectual property rights. EFTA wants India to commit more in IPR. They were also demanding for data exclusivity, which India is completely opposed to. The two way trade between the regions stood at $21.5 billion (around Rs 1,43,782 crore) in 2015-16 as against $24.5 billion (around Rs 1,63,844 crore) in the previous fiscal. The trade gap is highly in the favour of EFTA group.