Free trade pact with EU stuck over sanitary issues

Business Standard, January 29, 2008

India has said that issues related to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, which are used as preventive tests for pests and diseases in export consignments, must be included in the negotiations of the free trade agreement (FTA) being negotiated with the European Union (EU).

“There has been very little movement on SPA measures. It is big problem in the EU. If there is no movement on SPS measures, there will be no deal,” said Rahul Khullar, additional secretary, department of commerce, at a seminar organized by by Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) International.

According to trade experts, the EU has been a major user of SPS measures. “The United States has taken the EU to the dispute settlement board of the WTO several times over SPS issues,” said Pradeep Mehta, Director General, CUTS.

Last year, during the visit of European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson to India, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath had stressed that non-tariff barriers should not bother Indian exporters to the European Union once the FTA was inked. Nath had expressed concern that after the FTA was signed, Indian exporters may face difficulty in meeting SPS standards in the EU, which in turn would prevent export growth from India.

Khullar also said that the provisions related to government procurement could not be included by India in the FTA negotiation. “There are constitutional issues, especially regarded to state level procurement,”

The India-EU FTA, seek to cover not only goods, but also services and investments. However, Khullar said that European Union was adverse to mutual recognisition agreements (MRAs), which are needed to recognize professional degrees of both the sides.

“It took almost eight years for EU to finalise one MRAs with Japan.

Both the sides have completed three rounds of talks till now while the fourth rounds of talks till now while the fourth round is scheduled by the end of February.