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TEPA: Norway to eliminate customs duties for almost 98 pc of imports from India

New Delhi, Mar 10 (PTI) Shortly after New Delhi inked a USD 100 billion free trade pact with a four-member European bloc, Norway on Sunday said it will eliminate customs duties for almost 98 per cent of the imports from India under the framework of the pact.

New Delhi, Mar 10 (PTI) Shortly after New Delhi inked a USD 100 billion free trade pact with a four-member European bloc, Norway on Sunday said it will eliminate customs duties for almost 98 per cent of the imports from India under the framework of the pact.

The ambitious trade pact, signed between India and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) comprising Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, aims to expand trade across a range of areas including pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, new technologies and machinery.

After the EEA (European Economic Area) agreement, this could become one of the most important trade agreements Norway has ever entered, said Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere.

At a media briefing, Norway's Minister of Trade and Industry Jan Christian Vestre described the Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) as a major result-oriented milestone that would not only boost two-way trade but also promote a rules-based trading system.

'Norwegian businesses that export to India today meet high tariff barriers of up to 40 per cent on certain goods. With this new agreement we have secured zero tariff on almost all Norwegian exports to India,' he said.

'This is a breakthrough that can mean a lot for workplaces throughout Norway,' he said.

Vestre said India is a 'economic and political power house' with an extraordinary economic growth rate that it is set to continue in years to come and Norwegian companies will have a lot of opportunities in the country.

'We will eliminate all customs duties for almost 98 per cent of the imports from India including all important goods and services. For Indian companies, it will be a great opportunity,' he said.

The pact will come into force following completion of the ratification process by the signatories.

'For our companies exporting to India, the customs duties today are between 5 to 40 per cent and 93 per cent of that customs duty will be under zero per cent in 10 years from now,' he said.

Asked about the proposed USD 100 billion investment by the four EFTA countries in India in the next 15 years, Vestre said it will be for the private companies to achieve the goal.

'It is a binding commitment to promote investment and the goal is USD 100 billion and one million jobs. It is up to the private companies and businesses,' he said.

'After 15 years we will sit down and find ways to ensure that it happens,' he said, replying to a question on what the EFTA would do if the goal is not met.

Vestre said the EFTA bloc will set up an office in India to coordinate implementation of the mega trade deal.

'The four EFTA countries all together will mobilise private investments and the goal is to ensure USD 100 billion investment by the next two decades besides one ensuring million jobs,' he said.

At present, around 130 Norwegian companies are operating in different sectors in India including in areas of infrastructure, construction, renewable energy and technology.

A Norwegian readout said the TEPA also includes a reference to human rights.

Human rights are a central part of Norwegian foreign policy. Therefore, it has been important for Norway to include human rights and international environmental conventions as a part of the agreement, said PM Gahr Stoere.

In his remarks, Vestre also referred to geopolitical tensions and how the pact climate ambitions.

In a turbulent world, with geopolitical tensions, it is important to strengthen the ties between India and the West, he said.

The agreement also elevates climate ambitions and will ensure worker's and women's rights, Vestre added.

'The EFTA countries commit to promoting investments and the creation of more jobs in India. A designated office will be established in India to support Norwegian businesses in operating in the Indian market,' the readout said.

It said India will undergo a major green and digital transition, and in this context, Norwegian businesses have a lot to offer, from renewable energy and health technology to green mobility and seafood.

The agreement provides large possibilities for trade and investments in a market that is growing rapidly.

Through investments in India, Norwegian businesses can contribute to sustainable development, said Vestre. PTI MPB KVK KVK

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