EU, India close in on free trade deal

Associated Press
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, foreground, listens to EU leaders during an EU-India summit at the EU Council building in Brussels, Friday, Dec. 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
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Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, foreground, listens to EU leaders during an EU-India summit at …

The European Union and India are nearing a wide-ranging free trade deal and hope to sign an agreement next year, the two sides said Friday.

The breakthrough was announced during a visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to EU headquarters in Brussels.

The deal has been four years in the making and could boost trade between the two by almost 30 percent. The deal would slash tariffs on products by 90 percent and make it easier for trade and investments to grow on both sides.

"Let us sign the deal in 2011," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said after a meeting with Singh. After trade between the two doubled over the past seven years, "we should build on this momentum."

India was still very much a closed market two decades ago but has opened up to the world to become one of the biggest emerging economies, with annual growth rates sometimes reaching double digits.

EU trade and investment with India reached some €39 billion ($52 billion) last year.

Outside the summit meeting, the Doctors Without Borders NGO protested possible plans in the deal that would make it tougher for developing nations to buy Indian generic AIDS medicine.

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