New Delhi, Aug 8 (IANS) Belgium Wednesday expressed hope that India and the 27-nation European Union should be able to seal a free trade agreement at their 2013 bilateral summit, but admitted ‘some difficulties’ in negotiations in the services sector.
‘With India, we have made progress in certain areas like in the field of goods. There are more difficulties in services and we are trying to solve it,’ Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders said here at a joint press conference with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.
He said both sides were constantly talking to each other and many meetings were scheduled to hasten the process towards signing the FTA. He hoped that both sides would be able to sign it by the next India-EU summit in February 2013.
Krishna also voiced optimism that the pact would be signed soon as the negotiations have made ‘considerable progress’. He stressed that it will be ‘mutually beneficial.’
India and the EU have been negotiating a Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) for several years to reduce tariffs on goods and liberalise services and investments.
Krishna and Reynders held talks on a wide gamut of bilateral issues, including steps to intensify trade and investment and cooperation in the energy sector.
They also discussed a cluster of global issues, including UN reforms, the global financial crisis, climate change, nuclear energy and the Eurozone recession.
The upward trajectory of India-Belgium trade has defied the Eurozone recession to touch 13 billion euro.
‘Belgium has now emerged as the second largest trading partner in the goods sector within the European Union,’ said Krishna. ‘In addition, our interest to collaborate in newer areas, particularly in infrastructure and energy sector, including port development, renewable energy, both solar and wind power, has also been conveyed,’ he added.
Krishna singled out cooperation in the IT sector as an area where the two sides could do much more.
Alluding to substantial investments made by several Indian companies in the IT and software sector, Krishna said Belgium has the potential to emerge as a hub for their European operations.