India should open up its market to foreign audit firms under free trade agreements (FTAs) only on a reciprocal basis, said Debashis Mitra, president of the accounting rule-maker Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI).

ICAI’s committee on international trade will meet shortly to set out its position on FTAs relating to the audit sector, following which its governing council will deliberate the matter on 15 December. “After the deliberations in the council, we shall submit our recommendations to the government,” Mitra said.

Without going into the details of the recommendations ICAI will make on FTAs, Mitra said that as a professional body, it has stood for greater opportunities for professionals.

“We have always said it should be reciprocal. If people from outside come, our professionals should also be allowed to go and practice there. That is what we have always maintained. It cannot be one-way. They must give us visas. In Europe, if you have to practice, visas should be given to our practitioners. Our qualifications should be recognized that much more,” said Mitra.

India signed an early harvest deal with Australia in June, called the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement, which includes a section on the movement of natural persons across borders covering accounting and book-keeping services, but it specifically excludes statutory audit.

The deal takes effect on 29 December. ICAI’s views on the issue of opening up the statutory audit market come amid talks between India and Australia for a larger deal.