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India-EU free trade agreement may be signed by next year: Piyush Goyal

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The FTAs will spur growth and job creation, Goyal said. He, however, has stressed that the country is aiming for fair and balanced trade pacts.

India and the EU will likely clinch a free trade agreement (FTA) by next year, commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal said on Friday.

Both the sides will return to the negotiating table for the FTA in June after a gap of nine years.

India recently signed an FTA with the UAE and another trade deal with Australia. It is also negotiating with the UK, Canada and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for FTAs. At an event organised by the IMC Chamber of Commerce, Goyal said three rounds of negotiations have already taken place with the UK and there is a possibility of a fourth round soon. The minister will be meeting UK representatives on May 26-27.

On Friday, Goyal chaired the India-Italy Business Roundtable with Italian foreign minister Luigi Di Maio in Delhi.

As for the FTA with the EU, after 16 rounds of talks between 2007 and 2013, formal negotiations were stuck over stark differences. The EU had insisted that India scrap or slash hefty import duties on sensitive products such as automobiles, alcoholic beverages and dairy products. India’s demand included greater access to the EU market for its skilled professionals. Both the parties were reluctant to accede to what the other wanted. However, things have since changed and the parties are now willing to resolve differences  hammer out a deal that will be a win-win for both.

The FTAs will spur growth and job creation, Goyal said. He, however, has stressed that the country is aiming for fair and balanced trade pacts.

The minister pointed at the robust export performance in April (merchandise exports hit $38 billion, a record for the first month of any fiscal) on top of a stellar show in FY22 to suggest India is fast emerging as a manufacturing hub for high-class products. The country recorded goods exports worth $422 billion last fiscal, exceeding the ambitious target of $400 billion.

This also suggests programmes like the production-linked incentive schemes and the renewed push for infrastructure creation is yielding results, Goyal said.

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