The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is an intergovernmental organisation for the promotion and intensification of free trade. EFTA was founded as an alternative for states that did not wish to join the European Community (EC). EFTA was founded by the Stockholm Convention on May 3, 1960 with Austria, Denmark, Great Britain, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland as its founding members. The present membership of EFTA is limited to four countries – Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. These countries are not part of the European Union (EU).
During the visit of our President to Iceland in May 2005, Iceland had proposed to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India. Subsequently, during his meeting with the Commerce & Industry Minister (CIM) in New Delhi in January 2006, the Swiss Federal Councillor, Head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, proposed a possible Preferential Trading Arrangement (PTA) between India and EFTA. This request was repeated in October, 2006.
A Joint Study Group (JSG) was formally launched on 1st December 2006. The JSG was mandated to take a comprehensive view of bilateral economic linkages between India and EFTA and to examine the feasibility of a broad based trade and investment Agreement. The report of the JSG was finalized in October, 2007.
The JSG report comprised of 9 Chapters, namely, Introduction, Trade in Goods, Trade in Services, Investment, SPS/TBT and TF, IPRs and Competition, Government Procurement and Dispute Settlement, Technical Cooperation, Conclusions and Recommendations.
The JSG concluded that both sides would significantly benefit from a bilateral broad based trade and investment Agreement and recommended commencement of negotiations.
The following are the tracks on which negotiations are currently on: Trade in Goods & Services, Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures, Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), Customs and Tariff Facilitation (TF), Investment, Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), Competition, Government Procurement (GP), Dispute Settlement (DS), Trade Defence (TD), Rules of Origin (RoO), Sustainable Development (SD) and Legal & Horizontal. Thirteen rounds of India-EFTA BTIA negotiations have been held so far. 13th and final round was held from 25-29 November 2013 in New Delhi.