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EU, India Take ‘Step Forward’ on Free-Trade Deal, Barroso Says

The European Union and India took a “significant step forward” during talks to reach a free-trade agreement and negotiations should be completed late this year, said European Commission President Jose Barroso.

Trade between the two sides, which have been negotiating a deal since 2007, climbed to 84 billion euros ($111 billion) in 2010. Disagreements over Indian duties on cars and spirits and limited access for India to the EU’s labor market have hindered efforts to reach an accord.

“The negotiations have progressed steadily and I am happy to report that we have made a significant step forward,” Barroso said in New Delhi today after an India-EU summit, according to an e-mailed copy of his speech. “Our positions are now closer in all areas and the contours of the final agreement are emerging. We have therefore committed to intensify these negotiations. I expect the finalization of these negotiations this autumn.”

The EU is India’s largest trading partner, accounting for 14 percent of foreign commerce, and India’s largest source of foreign direct investment. A deal between the two economies would be the biggest trade agreement in the world, delivering benefits to a combined population of 1.7 billion people.

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