India and the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan will hold talks for a free trade agreement plus in June this year, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and Chairman of Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission Viktor Khristenko decided during their talks here on Tuesday.
The June meeting in St. Petersburg is likely to decide on preliminary spadework into all the aspects of an FTA plus or Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) that aims to cover trade in goods, service, investment and movement of labour, Mr. Khristenko told select newspersons on Tuesday after talks with Mr. Sharma.
“Both sides agreed to discuss the terms of reference for the joint study group, composition of joint study group and fixing the timeframes for the submission of the joint study group report in June 2013 when Mr. Sharma visits St. Petersburg for the International Economic Forum,” stated a Commerce Ministry release.
However, Mr. Khristenko would not hazard a guess about the eventual size of the present Customs Union of three republics of the former Soviet Union. This is an issue of much interest to the Indian side as it sets about getting into serious negotiations with the Russia-led troika.
“Who would have said in 1983 that the European Union will consist of 27 countries? At that time they would have predicted a maximum of 10 or 15 countries,” shot back Mr. Khristenko while warning that an FTA/CECA will not be an “easy process.”
Kazakhstan’s neighbour Kyrgyzstan is likely to be the fourth entrant and Tajikistan could over time be the fifth country to joint the Customs Union. Ukraine, Armenia and Moldovia would also be moving close to the Customs Union but for some time they are likely to be the first three countries outside the core. “They could be candidate members or observers,” said a member of Mr. Khristenko’s delegation which is here at the invitation of the Indian government.
The Russian official was at pains to draw attention to the enormity of the task by reminding that the European Union and India were still locked in negotiations after 17 rounds of talks and a false dawn predicted several times. “They could even be endless like the EU-Turkey talks,” he suggested.
India will be closely looking at talks between the three-country Customs Union and Vietnam. The two sides have drawn up a road map of four rounds of ministerial talks this year, supplemented by discussions via video conferencing between officials to keep the momentum going. They have also signed a joint statement which was not the case at the meeting here.
Eurasian Economic Commission chairman Viktor Khristenko, calling on Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: Ramesh Sharma
Optimistic about the FTA/CECA giving a major boost to trade between India and Russia, Mr. Khristenko described the negotiations as an “in-depth marriage contract” because many factors will have to be closely studied — harmonisation with World Trade Organisation rules, country of origin norms, impact on other FTAs etc. A long-term goal, he said, was to strike such agreements with regional organisations. Probably, he had the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in mind.
On Monday, senior Ministry of External Affairs official Ajay Bisaria had hoped that India-Russia strategic ties would gain further traction with an FTA/CECA. He felt the increased trade post-FTA could be routed through the North-South corridor that would cut down on time and distance to target markets in Russia and Kazakhstan. Analysts point out that these two countries will be better served from the Iranian port of Chah-Bahar.
Sandeep Dikshit, The Hindu
April 3, 2013 02:09
India, Eurasian Economic Commission agree to move towards CECA
India and Eurasian Economic Commission today agreed to move towards starting negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) between India and Customs Union (CU) which comprises Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
In a bilateral meeting with Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) Viktor Khristenko, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said the Customs Union is an important block in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) from the point of view of India-CIS trade.
"India is of the view that the need for CECA with CU is a well established concept. We have expressed our desire to begin the negotiations for it," Sharma said.
The need for the CECA with Russia/CU has been recognised since 2006-07 and the same has been voiced during different bilateral meetings held in the past with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, he added.
Besides, the Minister conveyed to Khristenko the idea for the establishment of a Joint Study Group (JSG) for CECA between India and the CU.
Both the sides agreed to discuss the Terms of Reference for the JSG, composition of JSG and fixing the time frames for the submission of the JSG report in June 2013, when Sharma visits St. Petersburg for the International Economic Forum.
The possibility of meeting between ministers from all the concerned countries is also being explored.
India's trade with the Eurasian Customs Union (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan) jumped to USD 7.4 billion in 2012 from USD 6.5 billion in 2011.
2 APR, 2013
India eyes trade pact with Eurasia customs union
India, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan are exploring the possibilities for a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).
Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and Eurasian Economic Commission chairperson Viktor Khristenko Tuesday agreed to start negotiations for the agreement during a bilateral meeting here.
"India is of the view that the need for CECA with the customs union, comprising Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, is a well established concept. We have expressed our desire to begin the negotiations for it," Sharma said after the meeting.
He suggested setting up a joint study group for the comprehensive economic pact.
"Both sides agreed to discuss the terms of reference for the joint study group, composition of joint study group and fixing the time frames for the submission of the joint study group report in June 2013 when Sharma visits St. Petersburg for the International Economic Forum," India's commerce and industry ministry said in a statement.
It said meetings between ministers from all the concerned countries were being worked out.
Speaking to media persons after the meeting, Khristenko said: "We agreed that a joint study group is required to make an in-depth study to reveal the interests of, and benefits to, all the four countries in this development (CECA).
The ECU has been developing rapidly in recent years as it heads toward the goal of transforming into the Eurasian Economic Union by January 2015.
India already has special political and economic ties with each of the three countries of the ECU, said Khristenko, who was earlier Russia's foreign minister.
"My primary mission here is to inform our strategic partner (India), which should know and understand the opportunities offered by this enlarging market represented by the Eurasian Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Community," he said.
India's total trade with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan increased to $7.43 billion in 2012 from $6.54 billion in the previous year.
New Delhi, April 2 (IANS)