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FIEO for fastening process of engagement with EU to seal free-trade pact expeditiously


NEW DELHI: Exporters’ body FIEO has urged Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal to fast-track the process of engagement with the European Union on the long-pending free-trade agreement (FTA) with India and conclude it in an expeditious manner.

India and the EU are negotiating a comprehensive FTA, officially dubbed as the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), but the talks are stalled since May 2013 due to differences on several matters.

Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) President S K Saraf said Vietnam, a strong competitor of India, has already signed a similar agreement with the EU, which is likely to be operational by July-August 2020.

“The EU is the largest market of our exports accounting for 18 per cent of our exports. Vietnam is a close competitor of India in the market as our exports to the EU stood at USD 58.4 billion, while Vietnam exports were USD 52.2 billion in 2019,” Saraf said in a letter to the commerce minister.

With the signing of the agreement, Vietnamese products will get further edge in the EU markets as the landed price of their products would become cheaper as compared to Indian products, he said.

“This does not augur well for many Indian products, particularly apparels, footwear, leather goods, furniture, tea, coffee and marine products. Since India is gaining traction in electrical and electronics goods, concession to goods manufactured in Vietnam will pose a challenge to our products,” Saraf said.

He said the EU-Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement has also been signed and, due to this, Vietnam will be attracting a lot of investments moving out of China particularly those with the EU as their market.

He added that due to these developments, Indian exporters are quite concerned and would request for acceleration in the process of completion of a similar agreement with the EU.

“We request you to kindly hasten the process of engagement with the EU to close India EU BTIA expeditiously,” the FIEO president said.

Citing certain data, he said that in 2019, India exported apparels worth USD 7 billion to the EU, while Vietnam shipped worth USD 7.10 billion. Similarly, India exported electrical and electronics worth USD 4.9 billion in the same year, Vietnam shipped USD 22 billion.

Earlier, Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) Chairman A Sakthivel also urged the government for early conclusion of the proposed FTAs of India with countries such as EU and Australia to boost exports.

“There is an urgent need to have a level-playing field in terms of market access and margin of preference in the biggest global market for Indian apparel that is the EU,” Sakthivel has said.

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