EFTA Looking At Reduced Trade Barriers In Proposed FTA With India


The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is trying to negotiate reduced trade barriers in sectors like machine tools, chocolates, Norwegian and Icelandic fish, among others, in the proposed free trade agreement with India.

According to PTI, the Swiss State Secretary for Economic Affairs Helene Budliger Artieda stated that the EFTA group is aiming to secure a trade agreement with India in goods, services, and protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs). The EFTA nations, namely Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, are trying to finalise a Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) with India to enhance the economic relationship between the two regions. 

The negotiations for the trade agreement started back in 2008 and went till 2013, after which they were put on hold. The discussions finally resumed in October 2016 and multiple talks have taken place since. 

Providing details on the agreement, the Swiss minister said, “Regarding trade in goods, India applies high tariffs on many of the EFTA countries’ exports. We obviously look for a substantial reduction of trade barriers, particularly for such high-value-added products as machine tools, advanced chemicals and pharmaceuticals, Swiss chocolate, Norwegian and Icelandic fish, and so on. This is our main focus.”

Currently, EFTA has 29 free trade agreements (FTAs) with 40 nations including Chile, Mexico, China and Canada. Elaborating on looking for zero import duty on gold from India as part of the TEPA, Artieda said, “We understand that gold is a very sensitive topic for our Indian colleagues and the ultimate goal of each negotiation is to find a good balance respecting the key interests and sensitivities of both sides.” Notably, gold forms a large part of India-Switzerland bilateral trade, which was worth $17.14 billion in the previous year, out of which imports contributed $15.8 billion. 

Talking about the deadline for finalising the deal, the minister said that the negotiations for the deal have been going on for more than 15 years now, with both regions working diligently over the last few months to conclude the deal swiftly. Artieda added, “We should seize this excellent momentum and continue to work constructively towards a successful conclusion of a mutually beneficial agreement in the coming weeks.”

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On increasing Swiss investments in India, the minister said the Swiss companies are looking at investment opportunities in India. She said, “At the moment, high customs duties are an impediment for trade and hence, for further investments. Swiss companies are known for being innovative. Therefore, an adequate protection of IPRs  can play a major role in companies’ strategic long-term decisions to invest in India.”

Notably, about 330 Swiss companies are functioning in India currently, and more than 17,000 jobs have been created. 

Regarding the India-Switzerland innovation platform, the minister stated that the platform will be launched during a three-day event on October 30. She added that the platform will help both nations grow sustainably and in a healthy way. 


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