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India, EU begin 2 days of trade talks

India has been pressing for greater access to EU markets, while EU has called on New Delhi not to block agricultural products.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2006 17:05 IST

India and the European Union began a two day sessionof trade talks in New Delhi on Monday in a bid to boost bilateral economic ties shackled by differences on international trade issues.

The talks, led by Indian Commerce Secretary SN Menon and the EU director general for trade, David O'Sullivan, mark the second time the two sides are meeting as members of a high-level trade group formed during an EU-India summit in the Indian capital in September.

The group met in Brussels in November, hoping to make progress on the key issues hampering trade between developed countries and developing economies -- agricultural tariffs and market access.

Officials on both sides have said these are the very issues that need to be addressed to spur bilateral trade between the European countries and the South Asian giant, whose economy is growing at better than 8.0 per cent.

Although the EU is India's largest trading partner, with bilateral trade at around 33 billion euros ($41.2 billion), EU trade with South Korea stands at 48 billion euros while that with China amounts to 175 billion euros, according to EU officials.

India has been pressing for greater access to EU markets, while the EU has called on New Delhi not to block agricultural products such as wine and cheese.

Indian commerce officials have frequently raised the issue of "non-tariff barriers," including huge subsidies to farmers and hygiene rules that have kept agricultural products, such as farmed shrimp, out of Europe.

At the World Trade Organisation meeting in Hong Kong, where the two sides were on opposite ends of the negotiating table, governments agreed on an end-date of 2013 to remove farm export subsidies.

But the EU was under fire from key developing countries for holding out on cutting import duties on farm goods, and ministers in Hong Kong likewise failed to agree on freeing up trade in industrial goods and services, a key demand of the rich world.

A source at the EU's India office said this week's talks, which began late morning in the Indian capital, would try to "take forward the agenda" discussed at past bilateral and multilateral meetings.

First Published: Feb 13, 2006 12:56 IST