India-EFTA Free Trade Agreement: Enhancing Economic Cooperation

Scope and Objectives:

  • India signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
  • The Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) aims to boost investments in India to $100 billion and create one million jobs within 15 years.

Key Provisions:

  • TEPA involves significant tariff reduction, increased market access, and simplified customs procedures.
  • Notably, the agreement includes a chapter on commitments to human rights and sustainable development, a first in such FTAs.

Investment Commitments:

  • CommerceMinister Piyush Goyal highlights the FTA’s unique achievement of a binding commitment to invest $100 billion in India from EFTA countries.
  • However, EFTA Ministers clarify that this commitment is a goal based on current investment levels, GDP predictions, and the TEPA’s estimated value.

Investment Promotion and Cooperation:

  • TEPA’s Chapter 7 outlines objectives to increase foreign direct investment from EFTA states into India by $50 billion within 10 years and another $50 billion in the next five
  • The agreement aims to facilitate the creation of one million jobs in India resulting from

these investments within 15 years.

Monitoring and Enforcement:

  • EFTA companies’ investments in India will be periodically assessed to ensure progress towards the agreed goals.
  • If the targets are not met within 15 years, India reserves the right to withdraw some trade concessions temporarily.

Dignitaries and Signatories:

EFTA Ministers, including representatives from Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, attended the signing ceremony in Delhi, underscoring the significance of the agreement.

Insights from the India-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Negotiations

Confidence in Achieving Targets:

Negotiators express confidence in meeting the investment and job creation targets set by the India-EFTA Free Trade Agreement (FTA) of $100 billion and one million jobs.

Private Sector Investment:

  • Emphasis is placed on private sector investment, with governments playing a facilitating role rather than directly investing.
  • The agreement aims to create a conducive environment for investment rather than relying solely on government intervention.

Basis for Investment Commitments:

  • The investment commitments are based on projections derived from the existing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) figures, GDP projections, and market potential in
  • The private sector’s interest in India is seen as a driving force behind achieving the investment target.

Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT):

  • While negotiations for a BIT were not possible before the FTA, discussions on an investment treaty are anticipated in the future.
  • Framework conditions for the investment chapter are deemed crucial for creating an environment conducive to investments.

Timeline for Implementation:

  • Each EFTA country has its ratification process, with Switzerland aiming to ratify the

agreement by the end of the year.

  • The agreement is expected to come into force once all EFTA countries complete their respective       ratification processes.


Data Exclusivity Clause:

  • The data exclusivity clause, although initially proposed, was eventually dropped from the agreement.
  • IntellectualProperty Rights (IPR) issues, including patents regime, were discussed, with compromises made by both parties.

Negotiation Dynamics:

  • Switzerland denies accusations of attempting to bully India, emphasizing the collaborative nature of negotiations.
  • The leaked draft text containing the data exclusivity clause was not agreed upon and did not reflect the final agreement terms.

What is a Free Trade Agreement?

A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is a formal agreement between two or more countries aimed at reducing barriers to trade and promoting economic cooperation. In an FTA, participating nations agree to minimize or eliminate tariffs, quotas, subsidies, and other restrictions on imports and exports between them.

Under a free trade policy, goods and services can flow more freely across international borders, leading to increased trade and economic growth. This approach contrasts with trade protectionism or economic isolationism, where governments impose barriers to protect domestic industries.

FTAs come in various forms, including Preferential Trade Agreements, Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreements, and Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements (CEPAs). Each type of FTA may vary in scope and depth of trade liberalization measures.

Insights from Study on Indian App-based

Cab Drivers and Gig Workers Long Working Hours:

Almost 83% of app-based cab drivers work over 10 hours a day, with nearly 60% working more than 12 hours and around 30% working over 14 hours daily.

Social Disparities:

Over 60% of drivers from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes work over 14 hours daily, compared to only 16% from the unreserved category, highlighting social inequalities.

Study Details:

  • Conducted by the People’s Association in Grassroots Action and Movements and the Indian Federation of App-based Transport Workers, with technical support from the University of Pennsylvania and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung India.
  • Surveyed over 10,000 cab drivers and gig workers across eight cities, including Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Mumbai, and others.


  • Urgedfor stronger social security measures for app-based
  • Called for government oversight on fairness of algorithms and monitoring

mechanisms used by platforms.

Income and Work Conditions:

  • Over43% of participants earn less than ₹500 a day after deducting all
  • 34% of app-based delivery persons earn less than ₹10,000 a month, with 78% working over 10 hours daily.

Impact on Health and Safety:

  • Long working hours contribute to physical exhaustion and increased risk of road
  • Lack of social and job security leads to stress and potential health issues among

Worker Dissatisfaction:

  • Majority of delivery persons struggle financially and are dissatisfied with fares offered by companies.
  • Customermisbehavior is also a significant issue reported by workers.

Milestone in Women’s Rights: France Enshrines Right to Abortion Historic Moment:

France inscribes “freedom of women to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy” into its Constitution on March 4, 2024, becoming the first country globally to constitutionally guarantee abortion rights.

Influence of Simone de Beauvoir:

  • Beauvoir’s seminal work “The Second Sex” laid theoretical groundwork for pro-choice
  • Thepublication sparked discussions on women’s rights and contributed to the eventual legalization of abortion in France.


Manifesto of the 343:

  • In 1971, Beauvoir spearheaded a petition signed by 343 women admitting to havingabortions, challenging societal stigma and advocating for reproductive rights.
  • Thepetition played a crucial role in the adoption of the Veil law in 1975, decriminalizing abortion in France.



Legacy and Translation:

  • Beauvoir’sinfluence transcends borders, with her work translated into Hindi by Prabha Khaitan in 1991.
  • VaniPrakashan commissions a new translation, reaffirming Beauvoir’s enduring

impact on feminism worldwide.



Simone Veil’s Contribution:

Simone Veil, another iconic figure in women’s rights, championed the Veil law and served as the first female leader of the European Parliament.



Feminist Foreign Policy:

  • France advocates for gender equality through a feminist foreign policy, partnering with civil society and young people to promote women’s rights globally.
  • Collaboration between France and India holds potential to further advance women’s rights on the international stage.


Modernizing Highway Toll Collection in India: A Move Towards GNSS-Based System



The Indian government plans to implement a new highway toll collection system based on the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) before the model code of conduct for the 2024 election kicks in.

Proposed Tolling System:

  • UtilizesGNSS technology for accurate vehicle
  • Involves fitting vehicles with On-Board Units (OBUs) linked to a digital wallet
  • Toll rates assigned based on distance
  • Gantries  with CCTV cameras enforce compliance by capturing vehicle



  • Recoveringtoll amounts from non-compliant
  • Addressing instances of deliberate evasion, such as OBU removal or switching
  • Establishing infrastructure for Automatic Number-Plate Recognition (ANPR)



Privacy Safeguards:

  • Use of GAGAN satellite system instead of GPS for data
  • Potential legislation like the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023, to address privacy concerns.


Coexistence with FASTags:

  • The new system will coexist with FASTag-based toll
  • Decision pending on whether OBUs will be mandatory for all



Comparison with FASTags:

  • Operational cost advantages of GNSS-based
  • Potential benefits such as barrier-free movement on




While the GNSS-based tolling system poses challenges, it offers advantages over existing methods and aligns with the government’s goal of modernizing toll collection infrastructure.

Bitcoin’s Recent Surge: Key Points for UPSC Prelims Market Recovery:

Bitcoin’s price surge follows global events like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and market recovery from previous downturns.

Regulatory Developments:

Approval of Bitcoin ETFs by the U.S. SEC indicates a potential shift in regulatory stance, attracting investor interest.

Bitcoin Halving Event:

Scheduled for April, the halving reduces mining rewards, maintaining scarcity and impacting supply dynamics.

Bitcoin vs. Ethereum:

While Bitcoin remains dominant with a market cap exceeding $1 trillion, Ethereum’s market cap is less than $500 billion. Ethereum’s transition to a ‘proof-of-stake’ model and its ecosystem’s functionalities make it a notable player in the crypto market.

Volatility and Risk:

Bitcoin’s recent price fluctuations highlight the volatile nature of cryptocurrencies, emphasizing the need for caution and risk management for investors.