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India to greet EU with long wish list in Brussels

Issues like grant of visa for Indian business visitors to EU will top India's agenda in the bilateral trade negotiations with the EU in Brussels.

, ET Bureau|
Sep 09, 2008, 03.11 AM IST
NEW DELHI: Issues including grant of visa on arrival for Indian business visitors to EU, lowering of quality barriers for exports to the trade bloc and expediting negotiations on services will top India���s agenda in the bilateral trade negotiations with the EU later this week in Brussels. The bilateral trade and investment agreement being worked out aims to liberalise trade in goods, services and investment between India and the EU.

While both sides have exchanged their indicative sensitive list of products which will be insulated from tariff cuts, the negotiations on services are lagging behind. The meeting of the high-level trade group in Brussels is expected to lay down a rough timeframe for carrying out talks on services.

Speaking to ET, government sources said it was unlikely the December-end deadline for completing the negotiations would be met. ���Apart from services negotiations, which are yet to gain momentum, there are a lot of issues that need to be settled. The year-end deadline looks tough,��� an official source said.

The industry is pushing to get the EU to agree to give visa on arrival to Indian business visitors. ���It is tedious to keep applying for visas every time you want to go back to a European country on business. India is trying to persuade the EU to give visa on arrival to business visitors,��� a source said.

India also wants the blue card visa system being worked out by the EU for contractual workers to be included in the bilateral agreement with India-specific concessions. The blue card visa system will help Indian business as it would give an easy entry to contractual service providers to service instruments or other gadgets sold by them to the EU. While the EU is talking about providing the blue card visa to contractual workers with a minimum one-year contract, India wants the visa should be extended to workers for shorter stay.

Stringent and varying quality norms, including sanitary and phytosanitary ones, adopted by EU countries act as a hindrance to Indian exports to the region. Issues including restrictions on supplying ayurvedic medicines to the EU countries and extremely low maximum residue limit on products such as spices and registration problems faced by poultry and egg suppliers are among the cases being taken up by Indian negotiators.

In the area of industrial and agricultural goods, India and the EU have exchanged sensitive lists which include 755 items and 950 items respectively. Both sides have to prune the lists further as the negotiating agenda lays down that not more than 10% (around 500 items) of tariff lines can be excluded from tariff cuts.

Services is one area where India has to put its act together. While research institute Icrier has come up with papers commissioned by the commerce department on sectors that could be opened up and the ones that need to be shielded, the government is yet to carry out stakeholder consultations.

The country���s merchandise trade with the EU, its largest trading partner, stood at $78.48 billion in 2007. India���s exports to the region were worth $41.95 billion while its imports from the EU stood at $37.38 billion. India���s services exports to the EU in 2007 were at $7.85 billion while imports were worth $9.56 billion.
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