The Hindu | 4 October 2007
EU, India to make major offers on duty cut
BRUSSELS : India and the European Union (EU) are expected to make big concessions on duty reduction at the eighth Annual Summit on November 30 so as to further ongoing talks on a bilateral trade and investment agreement. This was disclosed to visiting Indian journalists in an interaction with an official from the EU Trade Commission.
Both sides hope to build on the common understanding on the comprehensive elimination of duties and sustainable development. The EU, which has been concerned over the average 33 per cent tariffs on imports into India, is pushing for a complete elimination of duties on all industrial goods. As three quarters of India’s imports in 2006 were intermediate goods, a lowering of tariff can only boost its exports, argue EU officials.
Procurement of contracts is another item on the agenda of the trade pact. Here again, a deal can help Indian businesses access to the EU market as India has not signed the plurilateral agreement on government procurements. Access to the market in services, improvement in the climate for investment in both directions and behind the board issues such as trade facilitation and technical barriers to trade are some of the other controversial areas in the negotiations.
But the EU sees a new readiness on the part of the Indian side which, for the first time, has put poverty reduction, labour standards and environmental protection under the bilateral trade framework. The proposal for an ambitious bilateral trade and investment agreement was given the go-ahead at the 2006 Helsinki Summit. Talks commenced in June after the European Council adopted a negotiating mandate on behalf of the 27-member states for the treaty in April 2007. While no strict deadline has been set for the finalisation of the deal, India is believed to be keen on clinching it by 2008. The November Summit is, therefore, being viewed with a good deal of anticipation.