EU-India free trade talks reach decisive moment: Official

Thursday, December 9, 2010

BRUSSELS - European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said Thursday that negotiations between India and the 27-member European bloc on a free trade agreement (FTA) have reached “a decisive moment” and hoped the EU-India summit here will give “political impetus to the negotiations”.

Addressing a business conference organised by the Europe-India Chamber of Commerce (EICC) in the European Parliament, De Gucht expressed hope that the FTA negotiations, which began in 2007, “will close by the beginning of next year”.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here Thursday for the summit, which begins Friday.

De Gucht said the FTA will “introduce an new chapter in EU-India economic relations” and improve market access for services and business and increase flow of foreign direct investments”.

“The FTA will give Indian companies privileged access to a market of 500 million people,” EUAsiaNews quoted De Gucht as saying.

He also dismissed some reports that the FTA will harm India’s pharmaceutical industry as not true, adding that “it will in no way limit the scope for manufacture and export of life-saving medicines”.

Over 100 leading businessmen, as well as officials from both India and Europe are attending the one-day conference.

The chairman of the EICC and member of the European Parliament, Geoffrey Van Orden, said the development of trade between European countries and India must be a top priority in the years ahead.

“India is not only the world’s largest democracy, but has one of the fastest growing economies in the world - over five percent year-on-year,” he noted.

The EU parliamentarians noted that the conference is taking place on the eve of the 11th EU-India Summit and will address some of the major concerns of European and Indian businessmen in relation to the proposed EU-India FTA.

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