A long-delayed free trade deal between India and Switzerland is not likely to be signed soon, a senior Swiss official said Thursday, with differences on intellectual property rights and data protection still unresolved.
Despite India’s business-friendly premier Narendra Modi rolling out the red carpet to foreign investors, concluding the agreement will take time due to several issues yet to be thrashed out, the head of Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch said.
The two countries started negotiations in 2007. Talks stalled early last year, just before Indian general elections which brought Modi to power.
“Although there has been progress on certain points, the chances of an accord being signed now are extremely slim,” Ineichen-Fleisch told the Swiss daily Basler Zeitung.
“Despite a new Indian government which has opened the economy, an accord takes time to flesh out,” she said, adding that Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann would take up the issue during a visit to India in May.
The thorny issues include intellectual property rights, evoked by Switzerland’s giant pharmaceutical industry which is facing stiff competition from cheaper Indian generics.
“There are also questions around market protection,” Ineichen-Fleisch said.
Trade between the two countries nearly tripled from $1.6bn in 2004 to $4.5bn in 2011, according to Indian figures.
There are more than 200 Swiss companies present in India, including top names such as processed food giant Nestle, engineering firm ABB and pharmaceutical company Novartis.
Ineichen-Fleisch deplored that “some very good conditions for the machine industry guaranteed by Indian authorities,” had yet to materialise.
“It is vital… to find a satisfying solution for all sides,” she said.