Free trade pact with EU, EFTA group eminently doable, but India's concerns should be kept in mind: Goyal

Free trade pact with EU, EFTA group eminently doable, but India's concerns should be kept in mind: Goyal

New Delhi, Nov 22 (PTI) Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Wednesday said the proposed free trade agreements with the European Union and four-nation EFTA group are doable, but they should keep in mind India's concerns as the level of economic development is different.

Addressing CII's India-Nordic Baltic Business Conclave here, he said the European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries need to understand certain 'very important and significant' differences between the two set of regions.

'We are in active dialogue with the EU and EFTA for a free trade agreement... I do believe that both of these are eminently doable and will significantly help us expand our engagement not only in trade in goods services, but also in investments, technology, tourism, innovation, and clean energy,' Goyal said.

The Nordic Region nations include Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, Faroe Islands, and Greenland, while Baltic states include Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

India and EFTA states -- Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland -- are negotiating a Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) with a view to boost economic ties between the two regions.

Negotiations on the agreement were officially launched in January 2008. A total of 13 rounds of negotiations were held until autumn 2013 before the talks were put on hold.

After talks resumed in October 2016, a number of rounds have taken place.

Similarly, negotiations on the trade agreement between India and the EU were officially launched in January 2008, but in 2013 talks were put on hold and again resumed in June 2022.

Goyal said Nordic and Baltic nations can act as India's ambassadors in the EU and the EFTA to help them understand certain very important and significant differences between the two set of regions engaging with each other.

'Unless this is understood by the member countries of the EU and the EFTA, it will be very difficult to look at really concluding a high quality but fair, balanced, and equitable arrangement between them,' he added.

Explaining further, the minister said India has to look at 1.4 billion population, their future, jobs, work opportunities, and needs for better quality of life.

'We have a low per capita income base of about USD 2,500 compared to your countries with small population and per capita income of USD 60,000-USD 70,000,' Goyal said.

Citing the example of Norway, Goyal said Norway has about 6,000 fishermen as compared to about 4 million in India, who are small and marginalised.

The amount of investment in subsidising Norway's fishermen is multi-fold as compared to India.

Indian fishermen are engaged in basic fishing near the shores, as compared to developed nations where fishermen go deep into the sea for fishing, he said.

'It is not an equal competition,' he said, adding that free trade has to have enough opportunity to catch up 'when you are starting from two different levels'.

Further, he said the Nordic-Baltic region has come close to India in recent years and Indian cuisine, Bollywood, yoga, ayurveda, and textiles are popular in that region.

Goyal said these nations have the best of innovation, green tech, AI, and blockchain-led transformation, supply chain logistics and fintech and these are the areas where there is a huge scope for collaboration with India.

He also invited Nordic-Baltic companies to showcase, attend, collaborate in the upcoming trade fairs in India.

He told the gathering that BharatTex, to be held from February 26-29, will have over 3,500 exhibitors from nearly 40 countries.

Bharat Mobility Show will begin from February 1-3 and will showcase Auto Fair and also have electrical component as a key feature. PTI RR TRB TRB

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