Brussels ready to make concessions to untangle EU-India trade pact

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The European Union is ready to make an "ambitious" offer on temporary work visas for Indian professionals to help finalise a delayed free trade agreement, the EU's chief negotiator said on Tuesday (23 April), calling for India to reciprocate.

Negotiators had originally hoped to seal the deal in 2012, but talks stalled over issues including access for Indian workers to Europe's labour market.

At stake is an agreement that would create one of the world's largest free-trade zones by population – covering 1.8 billion, or nearly a quarter of the world's people.

"I can tell you that we are very conscious that for India it will not be possible to conclude an agreement unless there are improved conditions for Indian highly qualified professionals to provide temporary basis service in Europe. And we are ready to make quite an ambitious offer," negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero said.

The EU has been asking for greater market access in autos, wines and spirits while India wants liberalised visa norms for its professionals.

"In the same way we are expecting India to take some politically difficult decisions which are important for Europe. We are also ready to take politically important decisions which are important for India," Bercero said.

"It is very clear that for us issues like cars or wines and spirits are extremely important in terms of our export interest to India. Besides, we believe that there is certainly enough room in India to allow cheaper European imports of those products in the Indian market.

EU and India negotiators are likely to meet in New Delhi next month in a bid to resolve contentious issues that are blocking the bilateral trade deal ahead of a ministerial meeting in June.

Earlier talks fail

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht failed to reach an agreement on 15 April in Brussels and decided to meet again in June. 

Several rounds of meetings have already been held between India and the EU since the negotiations for the trade and investment deal were launched in June 2007.

In a recent interview with EURACTIV, Indian Ambassador DInkar Khullar said negotiations had entered a final stage and a possible conclusion was expected by the spring.  

Reports underscore that trade is likely to more than double to €155 billion by 2015 if the trade pact is implemented.

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