India urges EU on trade talks

Featured India - February 13th, 2013

India is seeking to revive negotiations for a trade agreement with the European Union that has been stalled for years amid New Delhi’s heavy regulation of foreign investment.

India’s commerce minister Anand Sharma called for an “urgent meeting of the chief negotiators in less than two weeks” to finalize an agreement, hopefully in March.

The remarks, which were said to have caught EU trade officials by surprise, included an assertion that talks would be at a stand still until India agrees to concessions that would see a new legislation paving the way for foreign investment.

Negotiators from Brussels want India to liberalize its banking and insurance sectors and give greater access to markets such as vehicles, wines and spirits, which are protected by tariffs of as much as 60% and 100% respectively, the Financial Times reports.

“If they want to get back in the game, they need to show serious progress on these legislative issues,” an EU official said.

EU representatives say the deal could be called off if not concluded by the middle of the year to focus on trade talks with larger markets such as the US and Japan.

Mr. Sharma said India has made “very ambitious” offers on the opening of its markets. Indian officials are demanding easier European work visas for skilled professionals as well as better access to EU’s protected agriculture market.

“India is committed to sign a broad-based trade and investment agreement with the EU. We feel that in the present global economic climate it will be a positive message,” Sharma said.