Kolkata: Switzerland’s Ambassador to India, Ralf Heckner, has expressed optimism that the crucial European Free Trade Association (EFTA) deal with the country would be wrapped up before the 2024 general elections.
Heckner stressed on the importance of the proposed trade deal for unlocking innovation and investment opportunities.
“Both sides have been negotiating very closely and seriously over the last more than 12 months. I remain positive that the deal would be wrapped up before the (2024) elections,” he told PTI.
The envoy was recently in the city to unveil the Kolkata chapter of the Swiss-India Chamber of Commerce.
Parliamentary elections in India are due in early 2024.
“If India wants innovation, it needs to work with about 12 to 15 countries, and one of those countries is Switzerland for a world of investments and innovation. We will have a more strategic innovation relationship with India,” Heckner stated.
India and the EFTA states – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland – are negotiating a Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) with a view to boost economic ties between the two regions.
Negotiations on the agreement were officially launched in January 2008.
The EFTA members are not part of the European Union (EU).
Noting the sharp rise in visa application processing numbers, which hit a record 2 lakh in 2023 compared to pre-COVID levels of 1.6-1.7 lakh, Heckner said this trend would lead to enhanced trade and cultural ties between India and Switzerland in the years ahead.
The EFTA-India merchandise trade exceeded $6.1 billion in 2022.