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Pre and Post Brexit

A Quantitative Assessment of the EU–India Free Trade Agreement

With EU–India clinching a post-Brexit trade negotiation, the present paper proposes to examine whether the free trade agreement between the two regions would increase production efficiency and thereby social welfare. Using the partial equilibrium model, the study reveals that the EU–India FTA yields less positive trade and welfare gains in India after Brexit specifically, for consumer, industrial, and capital goods, whereas it would still be in India’s interest towards the specific benign impact of an FTA in raw materials, intermediate goods, and agricultural goods. From the policy perspective, India is not well-served by its pursuit of protectionist agenda and instead should push for trade liberalisation as a better path for the global trading system.

On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) decided to exit the European Union (EU) with a majority vote of 52% in the “Brexit” referendum. Finally, on 31 January 2020, the UK formally left the EU and the immediate effects have started to be felt not only in the EU and advanced economies but also in developing and emerging economies, both in their stock markets and in the foreign exchange via the price of the pound. Brexit, as the UK’s exit from the EU has been termed, has resulted in financial markets’ volatility and has a significant effect on the Indian economy as it is the largest export market for India. Further, the Brexit decision has added new problems to the already existing issues in the EU–India free trade agreement (FTA).

Since 2007, India and the EU have been working on a broad-based trade and investment agreement but failed to reach the proposed EU–India FTA because of the inability to reach a consensus on several issues. Generally, India’s restrictive trade policy and regulatory framework have come up as hurdles related to matters such as foreign direct investment (FDI), greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear energy, farming subsidies, regulation of the financial sector, tariff and non-tariff barriers, and technology transfer. These hurdles failed to resolve the differences regarding the EU–India FTA in some specific sectors like dairy, textiles, beverages, and automobiles. Since import duties for these products are relatively high, the reduction of import tariffs is considered to affect these sectors to a large extent. On the other hand, the EU ­imposed a ban on 700 drugs clinically tested by an Indian drug company.1 The EU is keen that India should adopt stringent ­intellectual property protection standards even if that means compromising public health.2 Simultaneously there are many barriers to the movement of professionals due to cumbersome rules on work
permits, visa restrictions, and non-recognition of professional qualifications by the EU. India wants harmonised and easy access to these rules.

EU–India FTA after Brexit

Hence, if an FTA between India and the EU (the 27 nation bloc, excluding the UK) is implemented, it will have a different economic impact compared to the situation when the UK was a member of the EU. The UK alone accounted for 20%, that is, $9 billion of the total exports to the EU from India in 2016.

Against this background, the present study posits that if the EU and India adopt a more liberalised trade deal to enhance trade with each other, then the trade negotiation would not be as profitable as it would have been if the UK was still a member of the EU. Hence, the present study proposes to examine whether trade liberalisation between the two nations under an FTA would help to improve their economic and social welfare after Brexit. The study is particularly interested in the agricultural sector in India, given the high protection for agricultural liberalisation and India’s policy goals relating to self-sufficiency in foodgrains and poverty reduction. India has a trade surplus with the EU in agri-food products, and yet the growth in agricultural trade has remained much slower than in other sectors and the country has been unable to increase its share of world markets.3 Moreover, tariff rates are very high in India for agricultural and allied products and processed foods. While the ­average import tariff rates are quite low in the EU compared to India, therefore, an FTA between these two would mean a more substantial change in production efficiency in India compared with a very small change in the EU.

Using the Software for Market Analysis and Res­trictions on Trade (SMART) simulation model at a disaggre­gated level, this study reveals that trade could be accelerated, and the welfare agenda could be realised if India’s protectionist policies are removed in all the sectors under consideration, including the agriculture sectors. The paper shows that Brexit would not be as profitable for India in terms of trade and welfare as it would have been if the UK was still a member of the EU.

Literature Review

There have been a few studies on the proposed EU–India FTA. A study by CARS-CUTS (2007) shows that there is little similarity in comparative advantage patterns between India and the EU which suggests that liberalisation in the goods sector will lead to an ambiguous welfare effect. Powell (2008) estimates a net welfare gain of $250 million for India under a potential EU–­India FTA. Meincke (2008) indicated that tariff elimination and liberalisation by the Indian government could have negative effects on the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in ­India and hamper human development. Achterbosch et al (2008) using a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model found that India could gain very little from an FTA with the EU if it is only involved in tariff reduction in the trade with the EU. On the other hand, the study by Polaski et al (2008) suggests that India’s exports would increase by $3.5 billion (5.5%), imports would increase by $2.6 billion (3.4%) and also India would experience a very small welfare loss ($250 million) ­under an FTA. Ecorys (2009) has conducted an impact assessment of the EU–India FTA on trade and sustainable development, concluding that the FTA after the reduction of import tariffs will bring significant gain both in terms of gross dome­stic product (GDP) and an increase in trade flows in India as compared to the EU. The Centre for the Analysis of Regional Integration at Sussex (2007) did a quantitative analysis of the potential implication of the EU–India FTA and noted several trade opportunities between India and the EU. A study by Archana (2019) shows that in a scenario where China and India go for trade liberalisation, there could be huge potential to create an impact on trade and welfare in specific areas where they enjoy a comparative advantage.

Roy and Mathur (2016) examined the trade aspect of the EU–India FTA and analysed the obstacles related to tariff and non-tariff barriers associated with exports and imports of goods and services. Their simulation results indicate that the liberalisation of trade is beneficial for India and the EU in terms of welfare increases. One important finding from their study is that compared with the removal of a tariff, the reduction of non-tariff barriers has a much greater impact on welfare. It further indicates that when the UK is a member of the EU, the gains for both India and the EU in welfare are greater compared with the situation when the UK is out of the EU.

This study is in concordance with the contributions to the literature on preferential trade agreements (PTAs)/FTAs using both theoretical and empirical research. It examines the imp­acts of tariff policy changes between the EU–India FTA before and after Brexit on trade and social welfare detailed at HS 6-digit in the standard group of products and specifically the agriculture sector for the first time. A SMART partial equilibrium model has been used that allows analysing of the effects on India’s trade and welfare in ample detail. Still, the study must cope with the substantial limitations of the SMART model discussed below.

EU–India Trade and Tariff Picture

India’s economy is not so open to global markets because of its high tariff, especially on agricultural products.4 India is the EU’s ninth largest partner, with the value of EU exports of goods to India amounting to `41.7 billion in 2017. India’s overall bilateral trade with the EU for 2016–17 stood at $89.55 billion comprising India’s exports to the EU at $47.20 billion (17.10% of India’s exports) and imports at $42.36 billion (11.02% of India’s imports). During the first 10 months of 2017, the trade balance in goods was in India’s favour by $4.41 billion. The trade balance increased by $1.69 billion in 2017 compared to the trade balance of $2.71 billion during the corresponding period in 2016 (January–October 2016). The EU–­India bilateral trade in services was $32.25 billion in 2016 comprising Indian exports of services to the EU worth $16.61 ­billion and Indian imports from the EU worth $15.64 billion.

If we look at the structure of India’s trade with the UK and the remaining 27 countries of the EU between 2000 and 2015, it reveals that India’s balance of payment has been positive with the UK since 2004 but largely negative with the other 27 countries of the EU in the same period. India’s exports to EU countries minus the UK increased from $8 billion in 2000 to $35.8 billion in 2015, while its imports increased from $7.8 billion in 2000 to $38.5 billion in 2015, leaving a deficit of $2.7 billion. On the other hand, India’s trade deficit with the UK turned into a trade surplus in 2004 and since then India has maintained a positive balance of trade with the UK, which reached $3.5 billion in 2015.


Agricultural trade: As far as agriculture is concerned, in 2014, India’s total agricultural exports to the EU was of the order of $5,078.90 million. India’s principal exports during this period were agri-food products like edible fruits and nuts, shrimp and prawns, molluscs, cashew nuts, grapes, coffee, tea, mate and spices, rice, soya oilcake, tobacco, etc. During the same period, India’s agricultural import from the EU was of the order of $629.159 million. India’s principal imports were whey, vegetable seeds, olive oil lactose and lactose syrup, chocolate and other food preparations, whiskies, animal feed preparations, beverages, spirits and vinegar, etc. India’s agricultural export to the EU is showing an increasing trend and has a surplus agricultural trade with the EU from 2013–14 to 2016–17 (Figure 1).


Revealed comparative advantage: To explore the comparative advantage, revealed comparative advantage (RCA) was calculated for all the HS codes from 1 to 97, starting from 2011 and ending in 2017 (Table 1). Based on the RCA analysis, India has a strong comparative advantage vis-à-vis the EU for most of the products—fish and crustacean, mollusc; coffee, tea, mate, and spices; lac, gums, salt, sulphur, plastering, mate, lime; articles of leather; silk; cotton; other vegetable textile fibres, paper yarn; carpets and other textile floor coverings; art of apparel and clothing access, other made-up textile articles, worn clothing; and natural/cultured pearls, precious stones and metals, etc.


Existing tariff structures: Import tariffs for almost all products are much higher in India compared to those in the EU. Tariffs on UK exports into India are estimated to be around 14.8% on average, while Indian exports into the UK face tariffs of around 8.4% on average. Tariff rates are high in India for agricultural and allied products (paddy, vegetables, oilseeds, other crops, cattle, forestry, and fishing), processed foods (meat, sugar, vegetable oils, and dairy products), and motor vehicles and parts. The average ­agriculture tariff rate between India and the EU are 33.5% and 13.2%, respectively. The highest import protection is for agriculture and processed foods, most significantly for beverages, wine and spirits and tobacco products, sugar, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.5

The proposed EU–India FTA aims to eliminate duties on 90% of the tariff line at the HS 6-digit level within seven years of negotiation in force. The remaining 10% of products have been classified as sensitive products and included in the negative list. India has identified over 400 products as sensitive, out of which 150 are agricultural goods.6

Sources, Data, and Hypotheses

Since the present study wants to make the analysis exhaustive, the data on all products would be taken from the United Nations (UN) COMTRADE (International Trade Statistics Database) at the 6-digit level, which has the maximum level of disaggregation available.

The study focuses on the implications of a potential bilateral agreement between the EU and India when both economies open to each other. First, the simple method which uses trade indicators to draw specific inferences about India’s comparative advantage in different sectors as well as trade complementarity with the EU is presented.

To analyse the potential gains from an EU–India FTA when the UK is a member of the EU and after Brexit, the study design two scenarios—(i) the implications of EU (28)—India FTA (the UK as a member of EU); (ii) the next scenario considers the EU(27)—India FTA (after Brexit, when the UK is not a member of EU).

The following presents the framework of a partial equilibrium model known as the SMART model that has been used in analysing the trade, tariff revenue, and welfare effects of an EU–India FTA.

Based on this the study intends to examine the following hypotheses:


Hypothesis 1: Trade liberalisation by India under an FTA ­bet­ween India and the EU (28 members, when the UK is a member of the EU) increases the economic profitability (in terms of trade, welfare and consumer surplus) in India.

Hypothesis 2: Simulation results would show that trade liberalisation under an FTA between India and EU28 (when the UK is a member of the EU) increases the economic profitability (in terms of trade, welfare and consumer surplus) more than an FTA between India and EU27 after Brexit in India.

Methodology: According to Vu (2016)

Kehoe and Kehoe (1994), Mikic (2005), Plummer et al (2010), Karingi et al (2005), and Philip et al (2011), the ex ante impact assessment of an FTA can be carried out by different methods, but the most common ones include—(i) trade indicators; (ii) the partial equilibrium through the adoption of the SMART; and (iii) the CGE through the GTAP model (Global Trade Analysis Project).


Each method can be used to evaluate specific aspects of the impacts of an FTA and has its advantages and disadvantages—“trade indicators are used to evaluate or compare trade flows of the country over time or across countries” (Mikic 2005).Plummer et al (2010) and Vu (2015) revealed that this method fails to provide the impact of an FTA on trade and welfare, and therefore, it is only regarded to be a first step to assessing the future impact of an FTA. The GTAP is a comprehensive way of quantifying the impacts of an FTA on different aspects of an economy such as GDP, trade, employment, investment, price, and environment (Kehoe and Kehoe 1994) because it examines the interactions among sectors and markets (Nguyen 2014). However, the GTAP model also has its disadvantages because it is constructed on the grounds of a ­series of complicated constraints and heavily depends on equilibrium conditions (Andreosso-O’Callaghan 2009; Cassing ­et al 2010; Nguyen 2014). The CGE cannot handle disaggregated data while a partial equilibrium model like the SMART allows evaluating the impacts of an FTA at a much-disaggregated product level (Ahmed 2010). The SMART model is used to estimate the ­impact of tariff changes in a single market on trade flows (split into trade creation and trade diversion), tariff revenue and ­social welfare of a nation at HS 6-digit” (Cheong 2010; Ahmed 2010; Othieno and Shinyekwa 2011; Choudhry et al 2013).

Partial Equilibrium Model


The SMART model: The Smart model focuses on one importing market (in our case India) and its exporting partners (in our case EU [28] and EU [27]) and assessing the impact of a tariff change. The “supply-side” in the SMART model is that for a given good different countries compete to supply (export to) a given market. SMART assumes infinite supply elasticity that is the export supply curve is flat and world prices of each variety are exogenously given. The “demand-side” of the market in the SMART is based on the Armington assumption that commodities are differentiated by their country of origin. This assumption applies that particular commodity imports from one country are an imperfect substitute for imports from another country.

SMART calculates,


Trade effects: In the SMART modelling framework, a change in trade policy affects not only the price of the level of the composite goods but also the relative prices of different varieties.


Trade creation: This is defined as the direct increase in imports following a reduction in tariff imposed on good G from country C.


Trade diversion: This is the diversion of trade away from non-members to member countries. If the tariff reduction on good G by country c is under preferential trade agreements (that is, it does not apply to other countries), then imports of good G from country c are further going to increase due to the substitution effect. This is the trade diversion effect in the SMART model.


Price effect: The increase in trade value due to an increase in the world price for exports.


Revenue effect: The revenue effect captures the loss in government revenue that arises when the reduction or elimination of import tariffs causes a loss in custom revenue.


Welfare effect: The existence of both trade creation and trade diversion in any FTA arrangement implies that FTA member countries are likely to experience both positive and negative effects, and it is the net impact that will determine whether there will be overall welfare gain or loss. The welfare effect, which is a summation of consumers’ and producers’ surplus, presents the net welfare effect for each of the FTA member countries due to the implementation of the FTA (Figure 2, p 65).

Limitations of the SMART model: The main limitation is that it is a partial equilibrium model, which means the effects of trade policy change are only in one market. The model ignores the effect of trade policy change in other markets (inter-­industry effects) and the spillover to related markets. The model also neglects constraints on resources such as labour, land and capital, and the movement of resources between sectors in an economy.

Results and Discussion


Trade complementarity and trade intensity indices: We calculated the trade complementarity index (TCI) and trade intensity index (TII)for India and the EU for four years—2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. The TCI for four years is 64.42, 64.87, 63.91, and 64.62, respectively, and the value of the TII for the same years is 51.62, 54.30, 54.68, and 51.73. Both the indices indicate that India and the EU lie in between being ideal trading partners and perfect competitors (Table 2).

SMART Simulation Results

The SMART model includes all World Trade Organization (WTO) agricultural products at HS 6-digit level. For region aggregation the SMART model includes 28 regions for India–EU FTA and 27 regions after Brexit.

The preliminary trade indicators suggest that it would be feasible for both economies to be in a trade agreement. The RCA shows that agriculture is not export competitive. The model simulations identified trade creation and trade diversion effects after 100% tariff removal by India on its imports from its trading partners of the EU (28) bloc (with the UK a member) and EU (27) bloc (after Brexit) for HS 6-digit products.

Under full liberalisation by India, most of the products would be cheaper than the domestic market and an increase in imports from the FTA members would replace high-cost domestic production. This will improve the welfare and consumer surplus as domestic resources are allocated more efficiently and create competition from foreign producers. This is called the “trade creation” effect. However, under the EU–India FTA there would be an increase in India’s imports from the EU only. This is called the “trade diversion” effect, which lowers welfare because the low-cost production from the rest of the world is replaced by less efficient FTA members and production is forced to shift away from the comparative advantage. The ­results reveal that trade creation dominates over trade diversion in all the products under the zero-tariff scenario, which improves net welfare gain under both the scenarios of EU (28) and EU (27) under consideration.

Sectoral impact when India reduces its tariff to zero on its standard product group from EU 27 (when the UK is not a member of the EU): The study shows some standard product group results for trade, welfare gains, and tariff revenue. The standard groups of products considered for the present study are raw materials, intermediate goods, consumer goods, industrial goods, capital goods, agricultural goods and petroleum goods. The study found that when the UK is a member of the EU, India’s gain in welfare is greater compared with the situation when it is not a member.

If India opens a trade to the EU (27), that is, after Brexit and goes for trade liberalisation, the value of welfare gains would be less, that is $451 million, than under the EU (28), which is $610.96 million (Table 3). However, assessing the total trade (trade creation + trade diversion), the study found that the ­total trade effect is also considerably more before Brexit than after Brexit, wherein before Brexit the value is $2.85 billion while after Brexit is $2.66 billion. These findings suggest that the EU–India liberalised trade negotiations to enhance trade with each other yield less positive trade gains and welfare effects in India after Brexit, compared to if the UK is still a member of the EU.

The group of products in which India would gain more in terms of total welfare after Brexit is raw materials ($329.11 million) and intermediate goods ($197.48 million) (Table 3) and all other products like consumer goods, industrial goods, capital goods and agricultural goods, total welfare would deteriorate after Brexit. In terms of total trade effect, the highest gainer is raw materials ($2.78 billion) followed by intermediate goods ($2.45 billion) and agricultural goods ($1.54 billion) after Brexit.

We can see from the above analysis that when the UK is a member of the EU, then India would gain more in terms of trade and welfare if it opens its economy fully, particularly the consumer goods, industrial goods and capital goods, whereas after Brexit India would be more comfortable opening its raw materials and intermediate goods only. However, for agricultural goods, there is a mixed result in terms of welfare and trade gains, a reduction in welfare gains and an increase in total trade. An FTA may benefit a host country, even if there is trade diversion, if its benefits on growth and local demand are big enough to raise import demand; this may be more relevant in the case of the recent EU–India FTA after Brexit. The revenue effect estimated using the SMART model has also been validated by calculating the revenue loss from tariff reduction. The value of loss in revenue to India would be higher after Brexit ($9.07 billion) than when the UK was still a member of the EU ($8.56 billion). However, the gain in consumer surplus would be higher for India before Brexit which is $2.17 billion than after Brexit which is $2.13­ billion.

Sectoral impacts of trade liberalisation scenario in agriculture at HS 6-digit level: The study is particularly interested in agricultural sectors at the 6-digit product-level because agriculture is showing a mixed result. The results indicate that EU-India FTA after Brexit could be more rational in economic trade terms but less ­rational in social welfare after tariff elimination. After opening its agricultural sectors India’s gain in total trade will be greater in the main agricultural products by creating competition but its social welfare will deteriorate for whisky, brandy, and other liquors.

The gains in terms of welfare and trade would increase for edible vegetables and cereals, chickpeas, dried, shelled (HS Code 71320) and wheat and meslin (HS Code 100199), lentils, and would substantially deteriorate for coffee, tea, mate and spices; miscellaneous edible preparations; beverages whisky (HS Code 220830), grape brandy (HS Code 220820), gin and geneva (HS Code 220850), alcoholic liqueurs, spirits and vinegar under India–EU FTA after Brexit (Table 4). India has the world’s largest market for liquors, which is highly protected by tariffs. The results conclude that lowering the tariff on liquors under EU–India FTA after Brexit could be less rational in welfare terms. Therefore, it is clear that India would be keen on having more liberal trade policies with the UK.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The present study contributes to the ex ante literature on the interest of the developing countries to negotiate with high-income partners. The study analysed full liberalisation by India under India–EU (28) FTA (before Brexit) and India–EU (27) FTA (after Brexit) for the standard group of products and a 6-digit group of agricultural goods. The study uses the trade indicators and partial equilibrium model, taken from UN COMTRADE. Under trade indicators, the trade complementarity index suggests that it would be an interest of both partners to be in trade as they are in between the ideal trading partners and perfect competitors. The RCA indicates that India has a competitive advantage for most of the products vis-à-vis the EU and opening the market under the India–EU FTA could increase the effici­ency of production by creating competition.

Keeping in mind the limitation of the SMART model, the study briefly shows the principal findings from the simulation results as broadly indicating that the UK’s exit from the EU would not be as profitable for India, as it would have been if the UK was still a member of the EU. India’s a trade and welfare would substantially decline in consumer goods, industrial goods, and capital goods whereas India would be more comfortable opening its raw mat­erials and intermediate goods ­after Brexit. However, the study suggests that by opening the agricultural sectors under the India-EU FTA, there would be deterioration in welfare gains but an increase in the efficiency of agricultural trade by creating competition.

The study for the first time using HS 6-digit analysis, particularly for agricultural goods, indicates that it would still be in India’s interest towards a specific benign impact after Brexit in certain areas like chickpeas; wheat and meslin and lentils, broad beans, horse beans, and cereals. Lowering tariffs for whisky, grape brandy, gin and geneva, alcoholic liqueurs, coffee, tea, mate and spices, and miscellaneous edible preparations after an FTA would present an important market opportunity for India but it would no longer remain so after the UK exit.

If a country like India can gain acc­ess to regional inte­gration agreements, this may pave the way towards deeper inte­gration for India, with potential benefits. There is empirical ­support for the claim that India’s protectionist policy is counterproductive; hence, the pursuit of trade liberalisation is the way forward.


1 Press Release, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India,

2 India worries that any commitment over and above the WTO’s intellectual property rights (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, TRIPS) will undermine its capacity to produce generic drugs.

3 As per the Central Statistics Office (CSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, the share of agricultural and allied sectors in gross value added fell from 5.6% in 2013–14 to 0.6% in 2015–16.

4 As per WTO, 2017 data, India’s average WTO-bound tariff for agricultural products is 113.5%. Applied rates are also relatively high and on a trade-weighted basis, the average agricultural tariff is 32.8%.

5 Currently, very little trade take place in these sectors (less than 0.3%).

6 ActionAid, 2008.

7 Trade complementarity index indicates to what extent the export of a country matches with the import of its partners. A high index may indicate that the two countries would gain from increased trade under bilateral trade or regional trade agreements.

Trade intensity indicates the export competitiveness of one country in relation to other.


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Updated On : 12th Jun, 2022
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