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FTA talks with EU may begin anew

India and the European Union are trying to re-start the Free Trade Agreement negotiations. The discussions, formally called the Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), were officially kicked off in 2007 but saw several ups and downs with disagreements over market access issues.

In 2013, they reached a complete standstill as the EU was unhappy with India’s offers for items such as wines and spirits and automobiles as well as financial services and retail. India, on its part, wanted more market access for key manufacturing items, grant of data secure status that would bring more off-shore business to its companies and greater flexibility in H1-B visa rules.

However, this time things could be different. The EU, and to some extent India, have been on the receiving side of the abrasive trade measures of the US. Hard positions may see some softening. The Indian industry, especially textiles and garments sector, is eager to formalise the BTIA with the EU soon as competitors like Bangladesh and Vietnam enjoy preferential tariffs in the region. Two-way trade between India and the EU is well balanced. The EU accounts for about 17 per cent of India’s total exports.