NEW DELHI: India will undertake two major trade-related discussions during the week to improve exports and global business environment for Indian firms. According to sources in the commerce ministry, senior officials of Govt of India and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) are scheduled to meet during the next few days for the next round of talks on the proposed free trade agreement. The week will also witness officials of commerce and foreign ministries discussing several key issues related to the World Trade Organization.
India and the EFTA countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) will hold talks under the Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement. They are expected to discuss the number of goods on which duties will either be eliminated or reduced significantly and liberalisation of norms in the services sector.
The trade pact talks had started in October 2008 and so far, 16 rounds of TEPA negotiations have been held. The talks resumed last year after a gap of nearly three years. The proposed discussions will cover trade in goods and services, investments, trade facilitation, customs cooperation, protection of intellectual property and public procurement. The two-way trade between the regions dropped to $19 billion in 2016-17 from $ 21.5 billion in 2015-16.
Meanwhile, another set of officials will discuss issues on forthcoming ministerial conference of WTO in Argentina in December. The sectors include fisheries subsidies and permanent solution on public stock-holding for food security purposes.
The ministerial conference is the highest decision-making body of the WTO. The deliberations assume significance as key WTO members, including India, will meet in Morocco before thrashing it out at Argentina. Officials in the commerce ministry acknowledged that it is critical for India, which is pitching to fulfil the pending agenda which includes finding a permanent solution to the issue of food stockpiling and importantly, trade facilitation in services.