During the first round, the talks focused on the scope and further process in the negotiations on a preferential agreement that would go beyond existing commitments under the WTO. Expert groups in particular discussed tariffs on industrial and agricultural goods, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, rules of origin, trade in services, and intellectual property rights.
The basis for the negotiations was laid out in a joint EFTA-India feasibility study endorsed by Ministers from both sides in January 2008. The next round is expected to take place in December 2008 in Geneva.
Bilateral trade and investment flows between the EFTA States and India have increased steadily in recent years. The potential for further growth is substantial, and would be further enhanced by a preferential agreement between both sides.
In 2007, total merchandise trade between EFTA and India reached 3.6 billion USD, with machinery, precious stones, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and ships as the main exports from EFTA. If exportations of gold are added, the figures are significantly higher. Imports from India to the EFTA States predominantly consisted of chemicals, precious metals and stones, textiles and machinery. Trade in services is of special interest to both sides and has a large growth potential, while stocks of direct investments from EFTA States in India attained a level of 1.8 billion USD in 2006 and are increasing.
EFTA has established one of the most extensive networks of free trade agreements worldwide. In addition to the EU as the EFTA States’ most important economic partner, EFTA’s free trade network currently extends to 20 countries, and is being developed further.