New Delhi: Negotiations for a free trade agreement between India and the four-nation EFTA bloc are at an advanced stage as both sides have reached a shared understanding on key issues, a senior official has said. The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) members are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
India and the EFTA have been negotiating the pact, officially dubbed as Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA), since January 2008 to boost economic ties. "Following extensive negotiations, a shared understanding has been achieved on key issues during the Ministerial meeting. Ongoing efforts are now focused on shaping the convergence that has emerged," the official said.
Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal held a meeting recently with Swiss Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin in Mumbai. Parmelin, in a social media post on X, has said that officials are working around the clock to settle last details so that it can be signed as soon as possible.
"At the last-minute invitation of my Indian counterpart @PiyushGoyal, I travelled directly from the WEF in Davos to Mumbai/India. After 16 years of negotiations, we found balanced solutions to the main open issues of the EFTA-India trade agreement," Parmelin has said.
The last round of talks between the countries concluded on January 13 here.
Negotiations are held on various chapters, including trade in gods, rules of origin, intellectual property rights (IPRs), trade in services, investment promotion and cooperation, trade and sustainable development, and trade facilitation.
EFTA has 29 free trade agreements (FTAs) with 40 partner countries, including Canada, Chile, China, Mexico, and Korea. Under free trade pacts, two trading partners significantly reduce or eliminate customs duties on the maximum number of goods traded between them, besides easing norms to promote trade in services and investments.
EFTA countries are not part of the European Union (EU). It is an inter-governmental organisation for the promotion and intensification of free trade. It was founded as an alternative for states that did not wish to join the European community.
India's exports to EFTA countries during 2022-23 stood at USD 1.92 billion against USD 1.74 billion in 2021-22. Imports aggregated at USD 16.74 billion during the last fiscal compared to USD 25.5 billion in 2021-22. The trade gap is in favour of the EFTA group, according to the data of the Commerce Ministry.
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