New Delhi, March 14: European Union (EU) trade commissioner Pascal Lamy today refused to budge on the EU’s rigid sanitary and phytosanitary norms for food imports which India perceives as non-tariff hurdles to the exports of developing countries.
Lamy said he could do little about it as there is a growing consciousness among Europeans about food safety regulations in the light of their past experiences.
He admitted that the sanitary and phytosanitary requirements in the EU were protectionist in nature “but we are only responding to the concerns of European citizens”.
Lamy was addressing the meeting on EU-India economic relationship organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here today.
He, however, said both the Indian and the EU have similar mutual concerns on agriculture and manufacturing sectors and this would help formulate the basis of a common positive agenda for the upcoming WTO meeting at Cancun.
He announced a programme for countries like India to upgrade their testing laboratories and capabilities for food products. The euro 15-million Trade and Investment Development Programme (TIDP) will be launched along with India’s ministry of commerce and industry this year, to provide for technical assistance and capacity building on SPS standards in India, he added.
Lamy said issues like investment, trade and environment where India and the EU do not have a common position till date would not hinder progress on bilateral trade relations.
India asked the European Union not to be rigid on issues such as market access to make WTO acceptable to the developing world.
Commerce minister Arun Jaitley said the EU is an important trade partner of India and “we need to work together to arrive at a consensus on removal of trade irritants”.
Jaitley highlighted the fact that bilateral trade between India and the EU has exceeded the target this year, and this is heartening. He, however, mentioned that this is far short of what could be achieved.
Jaitley said the two sides had been very candid in their approach in dealing with WTO issues and appreciated each other’s positions.