EU ready to make "ambitious" work visa offer for India trade pact

MUMBAI, April 23 Tue Apr 23, 2013 9:01am EDT

MUMBAI, April 23 (Reuters) - The European Union is ready to make an "ambitious" offer on temporary work visas for Indian professionals to help finalise a delayed free trade agreement, the EU's chief negotiator said on Tuesday, and called on India to reciprocate.

Negotiators had originally hoped to seal the deal in 2012, but talks stalled over issues including access for Indian workers to Europe's labour market.

At stake is an agreement that would create one of the world's largest free-trade zones by population - covering 1.8 billion, or more than a quarter, of the world's people.

"I can tell you that we are very conscious that for India it will not be possible to conclude an agreement unless there are improved conditions for Indian highly qualified professionals to provide temporary basis service in Europe. And we are ready to make quite an ambitious offer," said negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero said.

The EU has been asking for greater market access in auto, wines and spirits while India wants liberalised visa norms for its professionals.

"In the same way we are expecting India to take some politically difficult decisions which are important for Europe. We are also ready to take politically important decisions which are important for India," Bercero said.

"It is very clear that for us issues like cars or wines and spirits are extremely important in terms of our export interest to India. Besides, we believe that there is certainly enough room in India to allow cheaper European imports of those products in the Indian market." (Reporting by Shamik Paul, writing by Suvashree Dey Choudhury; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)