India-EU trade pact will push global economy: Mandelson


New Delhi : A free trade pact between India and the European Union (EU) will not just boost the two economies but also help in reviving demand in other parts of the world, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said here Thursday.

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Mandelson told the 8th India-EU Business Summit that the two sides hoped to conclude a far-reaching agreement by 2008 to lower tariffs on bilateral trade.

“Business on both sides should throw its weight behind a deal that does justice to the ambition we brought to the table a year ago,” he told the gathering that included leading businesspeople and officials from India and the EU.

Mandelson said the bilateral free trade agreement could also give a major push to India’s manufacturing sector even as it will help European industry to sell its industrial goods to Indians at a cheaper rate.

“The India-EU free trade agreement will have a valuable role in stimulating not just the Indian economy but will also have a global role,” he told the inaugural session of the daylong event.

India’s Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, while addressing the session, emphasised on the successful conclusion of the Doha Round of trade talks under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) so as to revive the global economy.

“At this moment of global economic uncertainty, one antidote is a successful Doha round,” the minister said, adding India too was keen on a rule-based multilateral trading system.

Speaking to reporters later, Kamal Nath said India was working towards negotiating a free trade pact with the EU to push trade from the current level of $57 billion.

“We are in the process of negotiating an agreement on trade and investment with the EU and, with the complementarities and synergies between both the economies, we believe there will be a win-win situation,” Kamal Nath said.

“By the end of next year we will have an agreement covering services, technology and investment,” he said, adding there were still some issues acting as stumbling blocks.

“We want ensure that some non-tariff barriers like packaging and standards are not put in. There are several issues such as quality controls, phyto-sanitary matters and the procedure for the approval of goods needs to be sorted out.”

Kamal Nath once again underscored the need for the EU to seriously look at reducing subsidies to enable access for farm goods of developing countries. “The Doha round is not about perpetuating the distortions in agriculture trade,” he said.