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Rediff News  All News  » Business » India looks at FTA with non-EU nations

India looks at FTA with non-EU nations

August 08, 2006 02:38 IST

India is considering a Free Trade Agreement with non-EU members called the EFTA, which comprises four countries -- Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway.

This is besides New Delhi thinking of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with the European Union. Senior government officials told Business Standard the commerce ministry had commissioned a study to explore the possibility of an FTA with EFTA.

The study had been commissioned following Switzerland's interest in signing such an agreement.

"The findings of the study are expected to be ready by August-end," an official said, adding that a proposed FTA with EFTA would focus on non-agricultural goods and services.

"EFTA member countries have very high tariffs in agriculture. Any such market access would help India. There are complimentaries in the industrial sector

like textiles since they would export high end items while India would export the low end goods," an official said.

Switzerland has shown interest for cooperation in sectors like textiles, pharmaceuticals and precision engineering and manufacturing. Officials pointed out there were concerns in government circles regarding the feasibility of a trade pact with EFTA. There is hardly any trade with any of EFTA member countries barring Switzerland.

"Also as per trade data, 95 per cent of the bilateral trade with Switzerland comprises of precious metal. We import a lot of gold from Switzerland," an official said.

Bilateral trade between India and Switzerland during 2005-06 was $6.99 billion, an increase of 8 per cent over the previous year. Of this, India's exports to Switzerland during 2005-06 was to the tune of  $474 million which was over 12 per cent lower than 2004-05.

Monica Gupta in New Delhi