EU dangles temporary work visas for FTA with India

23 Apr 2013


The European Union has offered to make an ''ambitious'' offer on temporary work visas for Indian professionals in return for a free trade agreement with this country.

The EU's chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero today called on India to reciprocate by opening up its finance, agriculture and retail sectors to western investors.

Negotiators aimed at sealing an EU-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA), something that could fundamentally restructure Indian society and impact the lives of hundreds of millions, in 2012, but stumbled over issues, including access for Indian workers to Europe's labour market.

Negotiations for importing into India the type of economic liberalisation that has led to the bankruptcy of many Western economies began in 2007.

Negotiators completed 16 rounds of talks, covering a range of areas, including various goods, products and services, as well as investment rules, government procurement; and intellectual property rights, but the issues are still being fine tuned.

For EU, a successful culmination of the negotiations would create one of the world's largest free-trade zones by population - covering 1.8 billion, or more than a quarter, of the world's population.

"I can tell you that we are very conscious that for India it will not be possible to conclude an agreement unless there are improved conditions for Indian highly qualified professionals to provide temporary basis service in Europe. And we are ready to make quite an ambitious offer," Bercero said.

The EU is keen on greater market access for its autos and wines and spirits as also branded drugs while India wants liberalised visa norms for its professionals.

"In the same way we are expecting India to take some politically difficult decisions which are important for Europe. We are also ready to take politically important decisions which are important for India," Bercero said.

"It is very clear that for us issues like cars or wines and spirits are extremely important in terms of our export interest to India. Besides, we believe that there is certainly enough room in India to allow cheaper European imports of those products in the Indian market."

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