India-EU trade talks back on next year, GVK issue sidelined

India's efforts to smooth over trade disputes with the European Union will lead to a resumption of bilateral talks early next year, but GVK Biosciences will have to be satisfied with watching from the sidelines.

It will have been nearly three years since the two parties last met to work out a broad-based agreement governing trade and investments. India has long chafed over its treatment by EU countries in terms of trade and access to member markets.

Renewed talks had been scheduled as recently as this past July, but India canceled its participation to protest Belgium's earlier blocking of transshipments of 700 GVK generic drugs headed through the country on their way to other nations, the Hindu Business Line newspaper said.

Belgium said it did so because the India-based company had not followed proper testing procedures before marketing the drugs. India responded that since the drugs were not destined for Belgium or other EU consumers, the products were none of its business.

In an apparent compromise to get the talks restarted, the GVK issue is to be shoved aside to be dealt with separately from the overall trade deliberations.

India's Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in an interview with the Press Trust of India that at least at the prime minister level, India has received assurances from Germany that the GVK matter would be given fair consideration at the high-level talks.

None of the major issues on the agenda of the scheduled resumption of the talks includes the pharmaceutical industry specifically, apparently one reason the EU has not been willing to spend its time during talks on the GVK issue, reports said.

The FTA has been under discussion since 2007, covering a gamut of nonpharma issues, the primary one being data security and the information technology industry. The talks were suspended in early 2013 when the two sides failed to reach various agreements.

An unidentified official of the commerce ministry told the Hindu Business Line that India has given a strong signal to the EU that actions such as the one Belgium took against GVK should not occur unless "it has a strong reason to do so. We expect all our concerns to be addressed on the arbitrary way the (GVK) ban was imposed."

- here's a story from the Hindu Business Line
- and one from the Business Standard