India, EU must resume FTA talks

 thehindu.com  11/30/2019 18:56:22 

Former EU Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht favours resumption of negotiations between India and EU for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

I believe that it will be very good for the EU and also India to have bilateral FTA, he said, pointing out when India called off the negotiations, about five years ago, only a couple of issues remained to be settled on either sides. The irritants pertained to market access for whisky, recognition for Ayurveda in the EU and Indias stress on data exclusivity.

The FTA will be good for India as the country needs to have partners in international trade. You are limiting the number of partners you have in international trade and that is hampering investments in your country, Mr.Gucht, who had also served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, said.

The Belgium Minister of State, an honorary title given by the monarch, he interacted with media on the sidelines of a seminar organised here on Saturday by Consulate General of the Kingdom of Belgium, to showcase Belgium as a global R&D hub and logistics hub.

Replying in the negative on whether there were signs of India resuming negotiations, he said EU, however, is ready.

Noting that EU had recently entered into trade agreements with Mercosur (South American) countries, Canada, Japan, Vietnam, Korea and Singapore, he expressed confidence of a sensible FTA between India and EU.

Seeking to support Indias decision to withdraw from Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) talks, he said it was not completely surprising in the backdrop of issues related to reciprocity clause.

On the US-China trade war, he said trade problems with China are going to be with us for the next decade. It means that other countries should come closer...

The bilateral trade between India and Belgium, Mr.Gucht said, has scope to grow through collaboration in the areas of pharmaceuticals, machinery and IT.

Consul General of Belgium in Chennai Mark Van de Verken said Belgium was keen on diversifying the bilateral trade. Of the $19 billion bilateral trade, 75-80% is trade in diamond. We want our bilateral trade relationship to diversify, he said.

Honorary Consul of Belgium in Hyderbad, G.V. Prasad said there is room to do more in the area of pharmaceuticals for Indian companies. For pharma exporters, Brexit could provide an opportunity to shift their product testing and other infrastructure to Belgium. Biotech industry, renewables as well as digital are other vibrant sectors in Belgium, he added.

Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India Director General Ravi Udaya Bhaskar said EU contributed to $3 billion of the $19 billion Indian pharmaceuticals exports last fiscal, making it the third largest exporting destination. Belgium was the ninth largest export destination, with exports of $280 million.

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