BERN: EFTA, comprising Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, is negotiating a free trade pact, officially dubbed as Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA), with India since October 2008. Early conclusion of the proposed free trade agreement between India and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) would further boost economic ties between the two sides, Swiss President Doris Leuthard today said. She said this agreement along with the investment protection framework would usher in a new era of cooperation between India and Switzerland. EFTA, comprising Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, is negotiating a free trade pact, officially dubbed as Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA), with India since October 2008.
Addressing a business session here, Leuthard said to further strengthen the economic relationship, “we want to bring the negotiations that have been running between India and EFTA since 2008 to an end”. She said Switzerland is aware of the sensitivities of both the sides on the pact and this agreement would be important for India as lot of other negotiations are underway in the Asian region. “I am sure that in this visit, we will have a better understanding and the push by the Indian Prime Minister and me will help the ministers conclude the pending questions,” Leuthard said. The president also said: “If you want to compete, you must open up markets. Switzerland is not somebody you have to be afraid of. We are fair partners, we rely on rules and regulations”. She said conclusion of this pact will be very positive for other negotiations and “you can show that we have the political will to open up “. “I would really like to have India as a strong economic partner with trade agreement and an investment protection framework to be the base of the new era of cooperation,” she said.
Speaking at the session, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman too said India wanted to move forward on this agreement. “I will definitely sit with my team who are going to meet (with EFTA officials) by end of September that they look into every issue and wherever they need political guidance and support, we are willing to give that,” Sitharaman said. She said India wants to conclude this pact as it would benefit both sides. The two-way trade between India and EFTA dropped to USD 19 billion in 2016-17 from USD 21.5 billion in 2015-16. The trade gap is highly in favour of EFTA. Under an FTA, trading partners give market access to each other with a view to promoting bilateral trade in goods and services, besides investments. Further on the issue of intellectual property rights, she said India is ready to address any questions on IPR or concerns on data security.
India’s IPR regime is in compliance with the global rules and “we shall ensure that the patent, copyrights and trademark rights of any individual or company is respected,” the Indian minister added. Talking about the data security issues, the Swiss president said owners of data in the internet have to be protected to promote investments. “Internet is evolving at a rapid pace but there is a regulatory gap. How do we close that gap, that needs to be deliberated upon,” she said. Sitharaman said the topic has been discussed at Davos in WEF but more is required. She invited people to participate in the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to be held in Geneva in December. “Safer internet for everyone is a way forward…I invite you all,” she said adding that at global level, there is a need for a concerted approach to tackle criminal activities. Talking about areas of cooperation, she said lot of Swiss companies have invested in India and “we will bring lot of technologies to India and develop here”.