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Key EU-India trade talks kick off with new momentum

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Long-running talks on an EU Free Trade Agreement with India gained fresh momentum in a meeting Monday with Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, the European Commission said.

EU Trade Commissioner De Gucht and Sharma "had a positive meeting which has provided a renewed momentum to bring the negotiations forward.

"We look forward to renewed progress in the coming months", said John Clancy, spokesman for the commissioner.

Indian officials were not immediately available for comment.

EU officials said earlier that the purpose of Monday's talks was not so much to resolve specific trade issues but to get a political level accord to give them a fresh push.

The European Union and India began FTA talks in 2007, just before the global financial crisis crippled the economy, with Brussels keen for a deal then with one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

The EU is negotiating a series of FTAs -- it began talks in Brussels with Japan on Monday -- in the hope trade can provide the growth and jobs needed to get Europe's economy out of the doldrums.

In a late March update, the European Commission said of the talks with India that "substantive progress" had been made and that the "contours of a deal (were) emerging.

"Now both sides need to go the extra mile to put the package together," it said.

Stumbling blocks include foreign access to India's automobile, alcoholic beverages and insurance markets, while New Delhi is also fiercely protective of its giant pharmaceuticals industry.

Some Indian companies have grown into major players by making "generic" versions of key drug treatments first developed abroad and which are no longer under patent. It is praised by medical aid groups for providing cheaper drugs for people who are HIV positive.

Earlier this month, India's Supreme Court rejected a seven-year bid by Swiss drug giant Novartis to gain patent protection for a leukaemia treatment in a ruling activists said would ensure the country remains "the pharmacy of the world."

India is meanwhile pressing for access to the vast EU services sector given the development of its own very large computing services industry.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130415/key-eu-india-trade-talks-kick-new-momentum