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November 19, 1998


India, EU pluck out thorns from trade issues, resolve to continue talks

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India and the European Union today resolved several thorny issues affecting their trade relationship including conditions on the import of automobiles, the tariff increase and import curbs.

Herve Jouanjean, director of the World Trade Organisation affairs at the European Commission, Brussels, said in New Delhi today that real progress was accomplished on issues raised by both sides and the talks will resume next month in Geneva.

Jouanjean rounded off a series of trade talks with a detailed exchange of views on the preparations for the WTO's third ministerial meeting in 1999, and the prospects of future trade negotiations.

The EU also raised the question of the millennium round trade negotiations, covering issues like competition, investment, tariff and trade facilitation.

''India has some reservations about a broad agenda,'' said Jouarjean. ''I wanted to explain that our vision of the millennium round will actually cover a lot of issues which would be interesting to Indian exporters. I encouraged them to join us in a broad-based negotiation which should include developing country priorities.''

India also raised several matters of concern, including EU-anti dumping measures, import of basmati rice in the EU and conditions of import of other agricultural items like shrimps and milk products. Real progress was made on these issues, Jouanjean said.

He was assured by the Indian government officials that the five per cent special customs duty will be withdrawn gradually.

''Traditionally, the EU and India have enjoyed a close relationship in the WTO and we agreed to intensify our cooperation,'' he said.

European Commission vice-president Sir Leaon Brittan plans to visit India next year, which reflects how important EU-India ''relationship is to us''.

''Both India and the EU believe in the multilateral trading system and agreed it is serving us well. We also agree that the Uruguay round of agreements should be faithfully implemented,'' Jouanjean said.

''We will also work together on preparing for the future negotiations on services and agriculture, and in preparing for a successful WTO ministerial in 1999.''

The EC delegation comprised seven members and meetings were held with officials of the ministry of commerce and finance ministries. The consultations with the EU delegation were in the nature of preliminary discussions, with no clear-cut decisions emerging. Talks, however, will be continuing on these issues.

Jouanjean said the EU got a much better appreciation of the Indian side. He said the EU was determining what the Indian legislative position was and trying to understand whether it was violative of WTO provisions. He, however, said the EU was of the view that India needs to change its position.

On the question of repeated anti-dumping action on the same Indian products by the European Commission, he official assured that there was no intention of specially targeting Indian products.

Regarding trade, investment and competition policy, there were certain divergences of opinion, with the Indian side expressing the view that it was not appropriate for introducing comprehensive WTO regimes in these spheres, and that the WTO's agenda was already too overloaded.

Regarding electronic commerce and trade facilitation, the Indian perception that work in the WTO was at too preliminary a stage to arrive at any decisions was indicated.

Regarding the information technology agreement, Indian officials indicated that discussions were presently ongoing in Geneva and their outcome was awaited.

Indian reservations were expressed about the European proposal regarding a 'millennium round' or fresh comprehensive round of trade talks. Systemic issues in the WTO regime were also touched on. UNI

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