Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Monday said the negotiation to reach a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union will begin from June 17 at Brussels in Belgium.
Addressing the media, Goyal said negotiations were progressing for such agreements with the United Kingdom and Canada and the effort was undertaken to provide market access and opportunities for exporters in the country.
"We are also entering into free trade agreements with several countries. We have finalised with the UAE and Australia, while negotiations are progressing for such agreements with the UK and Canada. Our formal negotiations with the European Union to reach an FTA will begin on June 17 at Brussels. The effort is to provide market access and new opportunities for our exporters and consequently give fishermen a better future," Goyal said.
Earlier in May, Goyal had said that India will be able to conclude an FTA with the European Union by next year. Goyal met the media after inaugurating various infrastructure projects at the Cochin Special Economic Zone (CSEZ) here including a 13-storey office space for budding entrepreneurs and an effluent treatment plant.
Speaking to reporters, the Union minister said the treatment plant, based on Zero Liquid Discharge concept, which is beneficial to major water consuming units and the general public will be a solution to the complaints with regard to effluents. After the inauguration, Goyal visited the plant and interacted with the staff.
"I am very happy that the effluent treatment plant has finally come up in Kochi SEZ so that the local complaints of effluents will now go away. It can treat one million litres per day. The pollution issues associated with water discharge can be solved. We literally saw black water turning into drinking standards," he said.
The Minister also ruled out the possibility of shifting the office of Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) from Kochi. Rejecting the reports, Goyal said the statutory body under the Union Commerce and Industries Ministry will continue to operate from the southern coastal city.
"There is absolutely no plan to shift MPEDA from this beautiful city of Cochin and we have a very large setup here and it will continue to grow from strength to strength," the minister told reporters reacting to a query after holding separate stakeholder consultations with leaders of fishers and marine exporters here.
Recently, MPs from Kerala, Hibi Eden and T N Prathapan had met Goyal in New Delhi to impress upon him the requirement for maintaining the MPEDA headquarters in Kochi.
Goyal also interacted with the unit holders of Cochin SEZ. "I loved their enthusiasm. I am grateful to them for the ideas received from them. I am going back with a lot of homework. There is a huge potential for development in the city of Kochi," he said.
Goyal, who visited the MPEDA, said the aim of the country was to double exports of marine products from more than Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 1 lakh crore within the next five years.
He also held discussions with fishermen from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Karnataka. The minister had an interaction with the Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI) at MPEDA and had an extensive discussion on various issues, challenges and solutions facing the sector.
-With PTI Input