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Consultations held on India-EU trade pact

The Hindu | 29 November 2007

Consultations held on India-EU trade pact

R. Ramabhadran Pillai

Fishermen want 40 varieties in the negative list

KOCHI: Consultations were held here on Tuesday by the officials of Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry with various stakeholders for the identification of negative list items for Indo-European Union trade and investment agreement. Ajay Srivastav, Director, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, led the consultations. Umang Patodia, Chairman, CII Kerala State Council, was present.

Fishermen’s representatives under the aegis of Kerala Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi demanded that 40 varieties of fish found in the Indian waters be included in the negative list and that 16 among them be categorised in the most sensitive list.

Concern of plantation sector regarding tea and rubber were raised by a few. The issues pertaining to the trade of organic chemicals were also discussed.

India and European Communities Commission had launched negotiations for a bilateral trade and investment agreement that would include free trade agreement on goods and services as well as agreements on investment and other areas.

These negotiations are pursuant to the commitment made by the respective governments at the EU-India summit held in Helsinki in 2006.

The European Union (EU) is a group of 27 countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Poland, Ireland, Cyprus, Italy, Denmark, Spain and Sweden.

The negotiations for bilateral trade and investment agreement started in June 2007 and are expected to conclude by the end of next year. As the agreement would be required to be consistent with WTO rules and principles, India is expected to commit to zero customs duty regime on almost all imports from EU and vice versa. But India and EU would have the flexibility to exclude certain products from the tariff elimination commitments and negative list items. The size of the negative list items should not exceed 10 per cent of the total tariff lines.

The EU is India’s largest trading partner. It provides a substantial market for India’s export and has always been an important supplier for India’s imports.

The EU accounts for around one-fifth of India’s total trade (21.1 per cent in 2006) whereas India contributes around 1.5 per cent of the total EU trade and is its 10th largest partner.

In the last few years, trade between India and EU has shown impressive growth. In 2006-07 (April to December), India’s exports to the EU stood at $19.2 billion whereas India’s imports from it amounted to $20.1 billion. India’s exports to the EU increased from $18.2 billion in 2004-05 to $23.3 billion in 2005-06, registering a growth of 27.3 per cent. On the other hand, India’s imports from EU also increased from $19.3 billion in 2004-05 to $26 billion in 2005-06, recording a growth of 34.7 per cent.

The Department of Commerce had commissioned a study through UNCTAD-India to identify the list of products where no preferential tariffs would be offered in the India-EU bilateral trade and investment agreement. The consultations with stakeholders were carried out in this regard.

 source: The Hindu