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Trade talks with EFTA conclude after 17 years, agreement to be signed ‘in next 10 days’

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NEW DELHI : Negotiations for the free trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and India have been concluded and may be signed within the next 10 days, the Permanent Secretary in the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Martin Eyjólfsson, announced Thursday.

Speaking at the Raisina Dialogue 2024 being held in New Delhi, Eyjólfsson said, “We concluded negotiations (on the Free Trade Agreement) just days ago after 17 years and 20-plus rounds and we hope to be able to sign it in 10 days’ time here in Delhi.”

India and the four member countries of the EFTA — Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland — have been negotiating a Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) since 2008. Thirteen rounds of negotiations were held between 2008 and 2013. Negotiations were placed on hold before resuming in October 2016, as per information made available by the EFTA.

The total value of trade in goods between India and the four countries stood at roughly EUR 5.54 billion in 2023, according to statistics published by the bloc. EFTA imported goods worth EUR 3.2 billion from India, while it exported goods worth EUR 2.3 billion to India.

Earlier this month, there were differing views between departments in the government of India regarding provisions of the agreement relating to patents on pharmaceutical products.

India has also been negotiating free trade agreements with the US, the UK and the European Union (EU), apart from the EFTA negotiations. Negotiations between India and Canada have been paused since September 2023.

India a strategic focus for Europe

Gabrielius Landsbergis, the Lithuanian minister of foreign affairs, highlighted that India is a key actor for the European countries, with respect to the evolution of partnerships with emerging economies of the world.

Landsbergis, a panellist at the Raisina Dialogues 2024, said, “One has to say that there is a reason why you will see so many European delegations here in New Delhi. Apparently, it is quite obvious where European countries see a strategic direction going.”

The Lithuanian ministry of foreign affairs also pointed out the rekindling of relationships with the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia, South Korea and Japan, as examples of the “widening” approach of the EU to diversify its relationship from China.

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