India, 4-nation EFTA sign Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement

11 Mar 2024

India, 4-nation EFTA sign Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement

India on Sunday signed a Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) with the four-nation European Free Trade Association (EFTA) comprising Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. 

Under the agreement the two sides will eliminate most of the import duties on a reciprocal basis, keeping tariff lines to the minimum.  

EFTA has offered tariff cuts on 92.2 per cent of its imports covering 99.6 per cent of India’s exports to the region, while its market access offer covers all of India’s non-agricultural products. It also offers tariff concession on processed agricultural products.

India, in turn, will cut tariffs on 82.7 per cent of its imports from the EFTA, covering 95.3 per cent of the region’s exports to this country, with gold accounting for more than 80 per cent of India’s imports.

Services sector commitments in the TEPA would give a boost to India’s service sector exports, especially in IT, business services, personal, cultural, sporting and recreational services, other education services, audio-visual services etc.

EFTA is offering better access through digital delivery of services, commercial presence and certainty for entry and temporary stay of key personnel.

TEPA also provides for mutual recognition of professional services like nursing, chartered accountants, architects etc.

The deal, which comes after several rounds of negotiations over 16 years, is expected to result in $100 billion in investments and a million direct jobs over the next 15 years, according to a commerce ministry release.

The union cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the signing of the TEPA with the 4-nation bloc within the European Union. 

EFTA is an inter-governmental organisation set up in 1960 for the promotion of free trade and economic integration of the four member states.

Under the TEPA, India will open up a number of sectors, including pharmaceuticals, machinery and manufacturing, for investment by the EFTA member states.

India has opened up 105 sub-sectors to the EFTA, against commitments in 128 sub-sectors from Switzerland, 114 from Norway, 107 from Liechtenstein, and 110 from Iceland.

The agreement focuses mainly on market access related to goods, rules of origin, trade facilitation, trade remedies, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, investment promotion, market access on services, intellectual property rights, trade and sustainable development.

Among EFTA member countries, Switzerland is India’s largest trading partner, followed by Norway.

Minister of commerce and industry, food and consumer affairs and textiles, Piyush Goyal, said the TEPA, India’s first free-trade agreement with developed economies of the European economic bloc, is an important milestone in the country’s economic development.

The TEPA will also provide a window for Indian exporters to access large European and global markets, he said.

The investments, in turn, will give a boost to the government’s `Make in India’ drive and create jobs for the young and talented workforce, the minister added.

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