India and the four-nation bloc EFTA on Wednesday discussed ways to resume negotiations for a free trade agreement with a view to strengthening economic ties between the two regions.
The subject came up for discussion during a meeting of high-level representatives from India and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) here.
Both sides "discuss the prospects of resuming their negotiations towards a Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA)," the commerce ministry said in a statement.
Free trade agreements between the two regions are officially dubbed TEPA. Under such pacts, two trading partners significantly reduce or eliminate customs duties on the maximum number of goods traded between them, besides easing norms to promote trade in services and investments.
The high-level delegations were composed of Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal; Jan Christian Vestre, Minister of Trade and Industry of Norway; Helene Budliger Artieda, Swiss State Secretary at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO; Martin Eyjolfsson, Permanent Secretary of State of Iceland at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs; Kurt Jager, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein to EFTA, WTO and the UN in Geneva; and Henri Getaz, Secretary-General of the EFTA.
"The meeting provided an opportunity for both sides to exchange views on the state of play of their negotiations and explore ways to advance the talks," it said.
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The participants acknowledged the challenges posed by the current global economic and trade environment, as well as the need to address the bilateral trade and economic partnership issues in a constructive and pragmatic manner.
"Both sides agreed to continue their efforts to resolve all outstanding issues and work towards deepening and strengthening the economic partnership while contributing to a more inclusive global trading system," it added.
EFTA countries are not part of the European Union (EU).
EFTA is an inter-governmental organisation for the promotion and intensification of free trade. It was founded as an alternative for states that did not wish to join the European Community (EC).
India's exports to EFTA countries during April-February 2022-23 stood at USD 1.67 billion as against USD 1.74 billion in 2021-22. While imports aggregated at USD 15 billion during the 11-month period of 2022-23 as compared to USD 25.5 billion in 2021-22. The trade gap is in the favour of the EFTA group.
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