India and the 27-nation European Union (EU) will restart negotiations for their long-pending free trade agreement from June, a top official said on Wednesday.

Commerce Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam said the EU team would visit India for talks immediately after the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which is scheduled from June 12-15.

The team is “coming here for the first round… for restarting… Come June, we will start the negotiations,” he told reporters. The secretary said sectors like textiles would get huge benefits from this pact.

India’s textile products attract about 9-10 per cent customs duty in the EU and about 8-9 per cent in the UK. If the trade agreement comes through, then the EU will replace the US as India’s largest destination for garments.

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said he has met a large EU delegation which expressed keenness to expand trade ties with India. “I informed them about the advantages of investing in India and about the scope of doing manufacturing here at a large scale,” Goyal said.

He added that India will have a comprehensive pact with the EU. With the UK and Canada, there could be an interim pact first, he noted. The third round of talks with the UK will be held by the end of this month. “With Canada, we have talked for an interim agreement and then move forward,” he said.

The proposed Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) between India and the EU has been stalled since May 2013 due to several issues. The BTIA is a kind of comprehensive free trade agreement being negotiated by the two sides.

India’s merchandise exports to EU member countries stood at about USD 57 billion in 2021-22 (April-February), while imports aggregated to USD 46.36 billion.

Source: Economic Times