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EFTA talks on proposed FTA to resume this month

Financial Express | 9 September 2016

EFTA talks on proposed FTA to resume this month

The long-stalled negotiations for a free trade agreement between India and the EFTA, a bloc of four European countries including Switzerland, are expected to resume this month.

However, the place of the meeting is yet to be decided but both the sides have agreed to resume the negotiations from end of this month, an official said.

In June, India and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) had agreed to resolve the outstanding issues for resumption of the negotiations for the proposed Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA).

A meeting between the chief negotiators was held here to take stock of the ongoing negotiations.

Both sides have expressed willingness for early resumption of negotiations and concluding a balanced agreement in a time -bound manner, the official added.

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 last round of negotiations was held in November 2013 and thereafter the negotiations have remained suspended.

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.

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.

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

 source: Financial Express