Work Visas for Indians Offered as an EU-India Free Trade Sweetener

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Apr. 24 – The European Union (EU) is ready to make an “ambitious” offer on temporary work visas for Indian professionals in a bid to finalize its free trade agreement (FTA) with India. The EU’s chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero called on India to reciprocate by opening up its finance, agriculture and retail sectors to western investors.

In 2012, negotiations were conducted in the hope to seal an EU-India Free Trade Agreement, something which could fundamentally restructure Indian society and impact the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Yet negotiations were stalled as India and the EU stumbled over certain issues, such as access to Europe’s labor market for Indian workers.

Negotiations for importing into India a variety of financial services – many of which have since been discredited – began in 2007. Negotiators completed 16 rounds of talks, covering a range of areas, including various goods, products and services, as well as investment regulations, government procurement, and intellectual property rights. Negotiation of these issues, however, are still being fine tuned.

“I can tell you that we are very conscious that for India it will not be possible to conclude an agreement unless there are improved conditions for Indian highly qualified professionals to provide temporary basis service in Europe. And we are ready to make quite an ambitious offer,” Bercero said.

The EU is keen on greater market access to India’s auto, wines and spirits, while India wants liberalized visa application norms for its professionals, especially within the service sector.

“In the same way we are expecting India to take some politically difficult decisions which are important for Europe. We are also ready to take politically important decisions which are important for India,” Bercero further stated. “It is very clear that for us issues like cars or wines and spirits are extremely important in terms of our export interest to India. Besides, we believe that there is certainly enough room in India to allow cheaper European imports of those products in the Indian market.”

A successful culmination of the negotiations would create one of the world’s largest free-trade zones by population, covering 1.8 billion people, or more than 25 percent of the world’s population.

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