India-EU FTA likely by Year-end, Says Sharma

Pallavi Aiyar, Business Standard, June 22, 2010
 

Madrid - Both multilateral trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) like the India-EU (European Union) FTA, need to be speedily concluded in order to aid global recovery from the economic crisis, Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma said on Monday.

Speaking at the Global India Business Meeting, a gathering of Indian and European investors, in Madrid, Sharma said an “in principle” agreement between India and the EU on the FTA was likely to be had by the end of this year.

He added it was India's desire to bring the Doha Round of the WTO to a successful end because a “fair, rule-based system of international trade would ensure global economic benefits in excess of $700 million.”

Sharma urged Spanish and European investors to participate in India's growth story in particular in the agro processing, tourism, renewable energy and infrastructure sectors.

He claimed India would be the world's third largest economy in real terms within the next two decades, creating huge opportunities for business.

The two-day India-Europe investment meet is co-chaired by amongst others, FICCI. Several dozen Indian CEOs are participating and finding themselves wooed by European firms seeking new avenues of growth at a time of economic stagnation at home.

But despite India's increasing economic clout, countries like Spain remain unsure about how to leverage that growth. Spanish Minister of Trade Industry and Tourism Miguel Sebastian said he hoped the event would spur cooperation between the two countries, which currently remains low.

Although badly hurt by the global economic crisis, Spain is nonetheless the world's ninth largest and Europe's fifth largest economy. It is also the sixth biggest foreign investor in the world. In 2008, its total foreign trade was worth close to 500 billion.

Yet bilateral trade between Spain and India is paltry, at less than 4 billion. To put this is perspective, at 8.8 billion India's trade with Belgium, a country of only 10 million people, is worth more than double its trade with Spain, which has a population of 40 million.