[A2k] Hindu: India-EU FTA unlikely by December
thiru at keionline.org
Thu Oct 21 12:05:34 PDT 2010
India-EU FTA unlikely by December
Sharp differences persist on various issues including public procurement
Formal signing of the long negotiated India-European Union Free Trade
Agreement is unlikely during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to
Europe in early December. Sharp differences on various issues,
including public procurement and the list of sensitive items, are
likely to delay the process.
European Commission sources do not share the enthusiasm of India's
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on the issue. He had
recently stated that the bilateral negotiations had been put on the
fast track and the treaty was likely to be inked at the India-EU
summit on December 9. “We will have the final Ministerial wrap up in
November,” he had stated.
However, the European Commission negotiators, after a hectic round of
talks with Indian negotiators in New Delhi recently, are clear that
the signing of the treaty was not going to take place during Dr.
Singh's visit and the EU was not preparing for that. “It is absolutely
impossible to work out an agreement in short duration when there are
sharp differences on various issues. The signing of the treaty is
likely to stretch into early next year and I see the possibility of it
being signed sometime in May or June 2011.
The EU has been surprised by the announcement made by Mr. Sharma about
the treaty being signed in December,” a European Commission official
told The Hindu here.
Indian officials engaged in the negotiations here are also surprised
by Mr. Sharma's public posturing and also hold the same view and term
as remote the possibility of signing of the FTA treaty. “There are at
least three more rounds of negotiations involved during the next two
months. Then if both sides agree in principle, the treaty would be
sent to the 27-member states of the European Union for their approval.
This will take at least six months,” an official said. The European
Commission officials associated with the negotiations said the Indian
negotiators were still not clear about the mandate for holding talks
on the public procurement policy. They also spelt out the differences
on both sides on opening of multi-brand retail, non trade issues of
child labour and environment, opening of the banking sector,
liberalisation of financial sector and various other issues.
However, Indian officials said that it had been made clear to the
European Commission negotiators that India would not discuss any non-
trade issues like labour and environment which were sought to be
linked with trade. India had also made its stand clear on public
procurement stating it was untouchable. “The public procurement issue
is already clear. India allows import of telecom equipment, power
sector equipment and the situation is similar in various other
sectors. There is nothing to discuss further. But another round is
scheduled in New Delhi and Brussels in November and hopefully both
sides will narrow down their differences by that time, it is hoped,”
the Indian official said.
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)
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