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India, EU re-launch FTA talks in Brussels

The talks, kickstarted by India’s trade minister Piyush Goyal and his EU counterpart Valdis Dombrovskis, will cover three broad areas – free trade agreement, investment protection agreement, and an agreement on geographical indications. The two sides aim to conclude negotiations by December 2023.

The EU team will visit New Delhi for the next round of FTA talks during 27 June-1 July.

The formal launch of negotiations comes nearly a year after India and the 27-nation bloc announced resuming talks for a balanced and comprehensive trade pact.

“We have just concluded a productive meeting. Today, we formally resume EU-India negotiations towards a free trade agreement, and begin negotiations on an investment protection agreement and an agreement on geographical indications,” EU trade commissioner Dombrovskis said.

Goyal said the two sides have had a series of engagements, both at the official level and minister level over the last few months, ever since the announcement of the launch of the EU India engagement on all three tracks in May. “We now have teams in place… we have chief negotiators…committed to meeting ambitious timelines and putting together a package which would mean good for the people of the European Union and India, which will provide opportunities for business.”

The earlier talks for the India-EU free-trade agreement were suspended in 2013, after 16 rounds of negotiations since 2007, because of sharp differences on crucial issues. The EU insisted that India scrap or cut high import duties on sensitive products such as automobiles, alcoholic beverages and dairy products, and open up legal services.

India’s demand included greater access to the EU market for its skilled professionals, among others.

“…The fact that we are getting back to the negotiating table with an open mind, on all tracks is reflective of a new India, which wishes to engage with the developed world as friends from a position of fairness. The speed at which we have an ambition to conclude this agreement clearly reflects bilateral commitment on both sides,” said Goyal. 

He said India can learn and gain a lot from this partnership including innovation, technology, and the financial and investment strength. “The cutting edge technologies in terms of artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, big data. All of these are areas where India will gain significantly from this partnership apart from investments. It will help us grow our economy and meet the aspirations of 1.4 billion people.”

Meanwhile, India could contribute in labour intensive sectors, like textiles, gems and jewellery, leather footwear, metal industries, etc.. “So it’s truly a partnership where we both stand to offer large A number of opportunities for growth, new employment opportunities, new areas where we can build alliances between our businesses. And the new approach in which India is working with the rest of the world,” the minister added.

Dombrovskis described EU’s partnership with India as “one of the most important relationships” for the region for the upcoming decade.

“We are pursuing an ambitious timeline, and we aim to conclude the talks by the end of 2023. These far-reaching negotiations on trade, investment protection and geographical indications open a new and exciting chapter in EU-India relations,” the EU trade commissioner said.

The proposed agreement on investment protection is aimed at increasing investor confidence on both sides, leading to increases in foreign direct investment in both directions.

India signed its first FTA in a decade with the United Arab Emirates in February, and other trade pact with Australia in April. It is in the process of negotiating FTAs with the UK and Canada, Israel, and the Gulf Cooperation Council, and a full agreement with Australia.

The 27-nation bloc remains India’s top export destination, accounting for 15% of the Asian country’s total outbound shipment.

The Geographical Indications Agreement, once concluded, will support rural communities and help preserve the cultural and culinary heritage of both sides, according to the EU trade commissioner. “We believe these negotiations will open new ways to deepening our Strategic Partnership, helping to secure our joint prosperity, and promote our shared values,” he said.

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