Chief negotiators of the proposed India-EU Bilateral Trade & Investment Agreement (BTIA) met on Friday, for the first time after Britain’s decision to exit the EU, to discuss the status of negotiations on the free trade agreement (FTA).
“The language of Indian negotiations reflected the concerns of Indian industries in some sectors and expressed willingness to address outstanding issues as an integral part of the negotiations,” the commerce ministry said in a statement. It added that India is committed to proceed with the negotiations “with a hope to conclude the FTA as early as possible”.
The meeting was important as it came barely a week after Britain’s business minister Sajid Javid called on India’s commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman and discussed the possibility of a trade pact, post-Brexit. A source said a necessary re-calibration of strategy, following the Brexit reality, was briefly touched upon during the meeting. Earlier, differences were also discussed but serious negotiations are yet to start.
Differences exist on broad contours of the proposed FTA, including the EU’s insistence on India to cut import duties on auto parts and wine and strengthen intellectual property rights regime, and Indian demand for more liberalisation in services and greater flexibility on data privacy.
India also feels the flexibility shown by it in further opening up to foreign investments in more than a dozen sectors should be considered positively by the EU. On Wednesday, Sitharaman had said the offers for the proposed FTA “have to be tempered because Britain is now out of the EU”. However, she added that the FTA with the EU “won’t be worse for us”. As many as 16 rounds of negotiations took place between the two sides for the proposed FTA between 2007 and 2013. The EU — including the UK — accounts for 17 per cent of goods exports in 2015-16, while Britain alone accounts for 3.4 per cent. The UK contributes to over half of India’s software services exports to the EU and 23 per cent of key engineering and electrical goods exports.