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regular-article-logo Sunday, 14 April 2024

India, European Union to resume free trade talks

The two sides had junked trade negotiations in 2014 over differences in tariffs and market access

Our Special Correspondent New Delhi Published 25.04.22, 11:55 PM
External affairs minister  S. Jaishankar with  Ursula von der Leyen in  New Delhi on Monday.

External affairs minister S. Jaishankar with Ursula von der Leyen in New Delhi on Monday. PTI

India and the European Union are likely to begin negotiations on the free trade agreement talks soon even as they today agreed to set up a trade and technology council to step up cooperation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed to launch an EU-India trade and technology council to address the challenges of ensuring trusted technology and security in the wake of rapid geopolitical changes.

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The European Union said the strategic coordination mechanism will allow both partners to tackle challenges “at the nexus of trade, trusted technology and security, and thus deepen cooperation in these fields.” It said both sides agreed that rapid changes in the geopolitical environment highlight the need for joint in-depth strategic engagement.

“The EU is India’s third most important trade partner and one of its main investors. And we can do so much more,” she said at a bilateral meeting with Modi. Our teams will soon begin negotiations on trade and investment agreements, the EC President added.

“The Trade and Technology Council will provide the political steer and the necessary structure to operationalise political decisions, coordinate technical work, and report to the political level to ensure implementation and follow-up in areas that are important for the sustainable progress of European and Indian economies,” the EU said in a statement.

India said in a release that the two leaders reviewed the progress in the “India-EU Strategic Partnership, including the forthcoming re-commencement of negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement and Investment Agreement.”

The two sides had junked trade negotiations in 2014 over differences in tariffs and market access. The talks were relaunched in May 2021.

The preliminary negotiationsbetween the two are expected to prepare the ground for ironing out differences and even attempt to crack an early harvest deal before India goes to polls in 2024.

While the EU’s key demands include duty concessions for automobiles, dairy products, and wines and spirits, India is batting for greater market access in financial services and mobility for professionals.

The release said it was agreed to institute a high-level Trade & Technology Commission to provide political-level oversight of all aspects of the India-EU relationship, and to ensure coordination between different areas of cooperation.

The leaders had an extensive discussion on climate-related issues, including on possibilities of collaboration between India and the EU in areas like Green Hydrogen. They also discussed the continuing challenges of COVID-19 and stressed efforts to ensure equitable access to vaccines and therapeutics in all parts of the world, it added.

The EU said shared values and common interests of the EU and India offer a strong basis to intensify mutually beneficial and deeper strategic cooperation.

“The European Union and India are bound by decades of close partnership and are determined to increase joint efforts to tackle current challenges and address geopolitical circumstances,” The EU said.

“The decision to set up a Trade and Technology Council will be the first for India with any of its partners and second for the European Union following the first one it has set up with the US,” the EU said.

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