logo logo

India, European trade bloc close to inking deal after 16 yrs of talks

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

The Times of India - 22 January 2024

India, European trade bloc close to inking deal after 16 yrs of talks

New Delhi: European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the
four-nation trading bloc comprising Switzerland, Norway,
Iceland and Liechtenstein, is close to signing a trade
agreement with India after commerce minister Piyush
Goyal and Swiss economics minister Guy Parmelin settled
some of the thorny issues that had been holding up a deal,
which was seen as one of the easier ones to clinch.

“The main points on which we have reached agreement
include, for example, patent protection, which was
controversial in the past, as well as a new type of
investment promotion chapter. The text is still to be
finalised. The negotiations have not yet been finalised.
Both parties have agreed not to disclose the details,” a
spokesperson for the Swiss department of economic
affairs told TOI.

The bilateral investment protection agreement with EFTA
could also set the tone for other trade deals, including the
UK, where negotiations have not been completed as the
finance ministry has been reluctant to deviate from the
“model treaty” cleared by the Union cabinet a few years
ago, which has been a sore point with almost all

Switzerland was keen on lower import duty for gold, a
demand that New Delhi had virtually rejected. India’s
goods trade with the bloc was pegged at $17.2 billion,
with imports from EFTA estimated at just over $16 billion
during April-November and well on its way to beat last
fiscal year’s level of $16.7 billion. Of the $16 billion
imports so far this year, over $13 billion was accounted
for by gold.

Parmelin travelled directly from Davos to Mumbai to
finalise the agreement. “... After 16 years of negotiations
we found balanced solutions to the main open issues of
the EFTA-India trade agreement... Our teams are working
around the clock to settle the last details so that it can be
signed as soon as possible,” the minister tweeted on

Indian officials said that the broad outlines have been
worked out. “Following extensive negotiations, a shared
understanding has been achieved on key issues during
the ministerial meeting. Ongoing efforts are now focused
on shaping the convergence that has emerged,” an Indian
government official said.

In Mumbai, Goyal said Parmelin flew on a whistlestop
tour to India for 12 hours, with negotiations going into
early morning. “Talks are progressing very fast. They
want to scale up investments, get Indian products on a
large scale and increase trade, which will generate
employment for lakhs of Indians,” he said. With
Switzerland, India’s key trading partner among the EFTA
nations, removing industrial tariffs, observers said, there
is little gain for domestic exporters on the goods trade
side, barring the odd farm product, which will face
stringent checks.

After deciding to end talk for joining the Regional
Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement,
India has been on an FTA overdrive of sorts.

 source: The Times of India