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India-EFTA trade pact: Swiss watches, chocolates to enter Indian market at lower prices

New Delhi, Mar 10 (PTI) Domestic customers will get access to high-quality Swiss products such as watches, chocolates, biscuits, and clocks at lower prices as India will phase out customs duties under its trade pact with the EFTA bloc on these goods over a period of time.

New Delhi, Mar 10 (PTI) Domestic customers will get access to high-quality Swiss products such as watches, chocolates, biscuits, and clocks at lower prices as India will phase out customs duties under its trade pact with the EFTA bloc on these goods over a period of time.

India and the four-European nation bloc EFTA signed a trade and economic partnership agreement (TEPA) on Sunday to boost trade and investments between the two regions.

The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) members are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.

It will take up to a year to implement the agreement due to an elaborate ratification process of these pacts in different countries.

'We are giving duty concessions on Swiss watches, and chocolates,' an official said. Some famous Swiss watch brands are Rolex, Omega, and Cartier.

Nestle, which is a Swiss brand, is a major player in the Indian FMCG industry and manufactures chocolates in India. It is the third-largest listed entity in the Indian FMCG segment.

According to an analysis of the TEPA documents by economic think tank Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI), India has allowed tariff concession to a number of products imported from Switzerland under the agreement.

'India will soon have access to high-quality Swiss products at lower prices because it has decided to remove tariffs on many Swiss goods over seven to ten years,' GTRI Founder Ajay Srivastava said.

Key categories of these goods include seafood like tuna and salmon; fruits such as olives and avocados; coffee capsules; different oils like cod liver and olive oil, a variety of sweets and processed foods including chocolate and biscuits.

Other products that are covered are smartphones, bicycle parts, medical equipment, clocks, watches, medicines, dyes, textiles, apparel, iron and steel products, and machinery equipment.

srivastava said tariffs on cut and polished diamonds will be reduced from 5 per cent to 2.5 per cent in five years after the implementation of the agreement.

India has offered no effective tariff concessions on gold. On paper, it has offered a one per cent concession on the bound rate of 40 per cent, but the effective duty remains at 15 per cent, resulting in no real benefit.

For wines, it said duty concessions are similar to those given to Australia, with no concessions for wines costing less than USD 5.

'Wines priced between USD 5 and less than USD 15 will see a duty reduction from 150 per cent to 100 per cent in the first year, then decreasing gradually to 50 per cent over 10 years,' Srivastava said.

For wines costing USD 15 or more, he said, the initial duty cut is from 150 per cent to 75 per cent, eventually reducing to 25 per cent after 10 years.

India-EFTA two-way trade was USD 18.65 billion in 2022-23 as compared to USD 27.23 billion in 2021-22.

Switzerland is the largest trading partner of India followed by Norway.

Switzerland is considered one of the world's most innovative economies. It had been consistently ranked number one in the Global Innovation Index.

The bilateral trade between India and Switzerland stood at USD 17.14 billion (USD 1.34 billion exports and USD 15.79 billion imports) in the last fiscal. In 2022-23, India's trade deficit with Switzerland was USD 14.45 billion.

India's main imports from Switzerland include gold (USD 12.6 billion), machinery (USD 409 million), pharmaceuticals (USD 309 million), coking and steam coal (USD 380 million), optical instruments and orthopaedic appliances (USD 296 million), watches (USD 211.4 million), soybean oil (USD 202 million), and chocolates (USD 7 million).

Major exports from India include chemicals, gems and jewellery, shops and boats, machinery, certain types of textiles and apparel.

Switzerland is the largest source of gold imports for India, with about 41 per cent share during April-October this fiscal, followed by the UAE (about 13 per cent) and South Africa (about 10 per cent). The precious metal accounts for over 5 per cent of the country's total imports.

Switzerland has some of the major pharma firms in the world including Novartis and Roche. Both firms have a presence in India.

The two-way trade between India and Norway was USD 1.5 billion in 2022-23.

Under free trade pacts, two trading partners significantly reduce or eliminate customs duties on the maximum number of goods traded between them, besides easing norms to promote trade in services and investments.

India has received about USD 10 billion of foreign direct investments (FDI) from Switzerland between April 2000 and December 2023. It is the 12th largest investor in India.

The FDI inflow was USD 721.52 million from Norway, USD 29.26 million from Iceland and USD 105.22 million from Liechtenstein during the period. PTI RR RR MR

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