EFTA states conclude free trade agreement with India

11 March 2024 12:07

Bern/Vaduz - The member states of the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) have signed a free trade agreement with India following 16 years of negotiations. Economiesuisse and Swissmem have reacted with delight to the news. Scienceindustries has emphasized the importance of ensuring the protection of intellectual property.

Guy Parmelin, member of the Federal Council, the Swiss federal government, and Dominique Hasler, member of the Government of the Principality of Liechtenstein, have signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Indian Trade Minister Piyush Goyal alongside their counterparts from the other EFTA member states of Iceland and Norway. According to a press release issued by the Federal Council, and another statement from the Liechtenstein government, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Viola Amherd, President of the Swiss Confederation, and Daniel Risch, Prime Minister of the Principality of Liechtenstein, all recorded video messages to mark the signing ceremony.

Following 16 years of negotiations, the EFTA states have become the first European body to conclude an FTA with India. As soon as the agreement is ratified by all parties, India will lift or partially remove customs tariffs on 95.3 percent of industrial imports from Switzerland either immediately or with transition periods.

Moreover, Switzerland will be granted tariff-free access to the Indian market for selected agricultural products after a transition period of up to ten years. In return, Swiss concessions to India for agricultural products are based on previous FTAs.

Economiesuisse, the umbrella organization for the Swiss economy, describes the FTA with India as a “milestone” that will “significantly simplify Swiss exports to this emerging economy”. This presents the Swiss export sector with the opportunity to benefit from India’s economic growth.

Swissmem, the association for Switzerland’s mechanical and electrical engineering industries, was delighted in its initial reaction to the news that customs duties of up to 22 percent will be eliminated for the Swiss tech industry as well. According to Martin Hirzel, President of Swissmem, the FTA with India “opens up new market opportunities in particular for SMEs – primarily via exports but in the medium term also by establishing their own production sites”.

According to Stephan Mumenthaler, Director of Scienceindustries, it will only be possible for his organization to offer a definitive assessment of the agreement once the final contract text is available. As stated in a press release issued by the Swiss business association for the chemical, pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors, it is particularly important that the protection of intellectual property is “duly guaranteed”. This is because the FTA with India “will serve as a reference for future agreements with other trading partners of Switzerland”. As such, unfavorable precedents must not be set, the organization writes. ce/mm

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