The information provided outlines the optimism of Switzerland’s Ambassador to India, Ralf Heckner, regarding the completion of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) deal with India before the 2024 general elections. Here are the key points:
- Optimism for EFTA Deal: Ambassador Ralf Heckner expressed confidence that the EFTA deal between Switzerland and India would be concluded before the 2024 general elections in India. He highlighted the seriousness and close negotiations between both sides over the past 12 months.
- Importance of the Trade Deal: Heckner emphasized the significance of the proposed EFTA-India Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) in unlocking innovation and investment opportunities. He stated that working with countries like Switzerland is essential for India to foster innovation and attract investments.
- Strategic Innovation Relationship: Switzerland aims to build a more strategic innovation relationship with India, especially in the context of fostering innovation and investment. Heckner suggested that for India to pursue innovation, collaboration with about 12 to 15 countries, including Switzerland, is crucial.
- Parliamentary Elections in India: The parliamentary elections in India are scheduled for early 2024. Ambassador Heckner expressed hope that the trade deal would be finalized before these elections take place.
- EFTA Member States: The EFTA states involved in the negotiations with India include Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. These countries are not part of the European Union (EU).
- Visa Application Trends: The ambassador noted a significant increase in visa application processing numbers, reaching a record of 2 lakh in 2023 compared to pre-COVID levels. He anticipated that this trend would contribute to enhanced trade and cultural ties between India and Switzerland in the future.
- Merchandise Trade Figures: The EFTA-India merchandise trade exceeded USD 6.1 billion in 2022, indicating a substantial economic relationship between the two parties.
In summary, the statement by Ambassador Ralf Heckner reflects the ongoing positive outlook for the EFTA-India trade deal and underscores the importance of such agreements for fostering economic ties, innovation, and investment between nations.