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India and the EU to resurrect free trade deal negotiations

India data server

Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty

Chief trade negotiators from India and the EU will today conclude informal discussions aimed at resurrecting free trade talks.

After six years and 16 rounds of talks, negotiations were suspended in 2013, with New Delhi unwilling to cut tariffs on European cars and alcohol and Brussels refusing to recognise India as a “data-secure country”, which would allow the free flow of information between the two economies.

Data flow promises to remain a key sticking point, however. Recognition as a data-secure country would provide a huge boost to India’s $100 billion IT outsourcing industry—30% of which comes from European based customers. Gaining access European information would allow India to extend its outsourcing services into sophisticated sectors, such as healthcare, clinical research and telemedicine.

For their part, the EU will likely reiterate that India will only be granted data-secure status if its privacy laws conform to European standards. As it stands, that is unlikely; data protection laws in India are muddled across various acts, while the term ‘personal data’ is legally ambiguous. As such, expect discussions to remain difficult.

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