India signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), a group that includes Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein on Sunday. EFTA countries will invest approximately $100 billion and create 1 million jobs in India in the next 15 years as part of the deal, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said.

Under the FTA, India will lift or partially remove customs tariffs on 95.3% of industrial imports from Switzerland (excluding gold) either immediately or with transition periods. Switzerland will also have tariff-free access to the Indian market for selected agricultural products after a transition period of up to ten years, a statement from Swiss Federal Council said. It added that the deal will strengthen the competitiveness of Swiss exports to India and stated that Switzerland's concessions to India for agricultural products are based on previous free trade agreements and are in line with Swiss agricultural policy.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the deal a "watershed moment", Goyal said the equitable, fair and balanced agreement marks the dawn of a new era of prosperity and mutual growth among the five nations. The Federal Council of Switzerland stated that the signing of the agreement is a significant milestone in Swiss trade policy as it comes after 16 years of negotiations.

The EFTA states have become the first European partner to conclude an FTA with India.

Goyal said the FTA integrates India with many value chains and promises huge business opportunities and employment. "For the first time an FTA investment commitment has been brought in as part of the agreement to balance the asymmetries of the economies of the EFTA region and the Indian economy," he explained.

The agreement will see EFTA countries offering market access to 92.2% of its tariff lines which covers 99.6% of India's exports. This covers 100% of non-agri products and tariff concessions on Processed Agricultural Products (PAP). India has offered 105 sub-sectors to the EFTA and secured commitments in 128 sub-sectors from Switzerland, 114 from Norway, 107 from Liechtenstein, and 110 from Iceland.

Commerce ministry said that the agreement will stimulate Indian services exports in IT services, business services, personal, cultural, sporting and recreational services, other education services, audio-visual services etc. It also has provisions for Mutual Recognition Agreements in Professional Services like nursing, chartered accountants, architects etc.

The ministry said the FTA provides an opportunity to integrate into EU markets. Over 40% of Switzerland's global services exports are to the EU. Indian companies can look to Switzerland as a base for extending its market reach to the EU. It also facilitates technology collaboration and access to world leading technologies in precision engineering, health sciences, renewable energy, innovation and R&D.

The Swiss Federal Council also stated that "improvements have been made to intellectual property rights (IPR), in particular with regard to legal certainty, patent procedures and the protection of 'Swissness'. This will not restrict access to medicines in India".

The agreement contains a comprehensive and legally binding chapter on trade and sustainable development.

The Swiss Federal Council also said the agreement contains a chapter that covers the promotion of investments in India by companies from the EFTA states.

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