India and the European Union have agreed to the “resumption of talks” on the free trade agreement (FTA) during the virtual summit on Saturday (May 8, 2021).
Briefing the media persons at the end of the meeting, Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs said, “Both India and the EU have agreed to resume negotiations for balanced and comprehensive free trade and investment agreements.”
According to him, “The negotiations on both the Trade and Investment Agreements will be carried on simultaneously and the intention is to achieve an early conclusion on both.”
Responding to a question, he said, “Once the talks resume, all outstanding issues will be on the agenda.”
As has been reported earlier the negotiations were put on hold in 2013 after several rounds spread over six years. While India was keen on starting fresh talks, the EU has been urging for the resumption of the stalled negotiations.
Today’s, decision is the outcome of intensive discussions between the two sides to arrive at a common understanding.
What was the meeting about?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the special invitee to the India-EU Leaders’ Meeting. This is the second time the EU+27 format met, the first was done with the United States in March with US President Joe Biden.
According to him, in his initial remarks Prime Minister Narendra Modi described India-EU strategic partnership as a force multiplier for the 21st Century and talked about a stronger and deeper relationship with all the members of the EU
“The leaders of both sides exchanged views and the three broad clusters of discussions were: Today’s Meeting provided a platform to the leaders of India and the EU to exchange views on issues of mutual interest. And, there were three broad clusters of discussions: Trade, Technology and Connectivity; COVID-19, Environment and Climate Change; and finally Foreign Policy, Security and Regional Issues.”
India-EU will also have dialogues on WTO issues, regulatory cooperation, market access issues and supply chain resilience, demonstrating the desire to deepen and further diversify our economic engagement.
The two sides have also agreed to start talks on a separate agreement on geographical indications. “The High-Level Trade and Investment Dialogue will monitor the progress of the new decisions taken.”
Connectivity Partnership covering digital, energy, transport and people-to-people connectivity was adopted and this will help in enabling private and public investments in connectivity projects and also help in leveraging public funds to push private investments in sustainable projects. “This will be done through a variety of tools such as Infrastructure Investment Trusts, green bonds, Debt Funds, Real Estate Investment Trusts, and Export Credits,” Mr Swarup told the media persons.
Two major agreements
On Friday, (May 8, 2021), European Investment Bank and SBI, have agreed to invest 100 million Euros in Neev Fund II on climate action and sustainability business financing for Indian SMEs. And, a finance contract of 150 million Euros has been signed for Pune Metro Project between DEA and European Investment Bank.
All the leaders looked towards an early operationalization of the Joint Task Force on Artificial Intelligence, this was a decision which was taken last year at the 15th India-EU Summit. India has invited the EU Member States to participate in the India-EU High-Level Digital Forum, later this year.
During discussions, PM Modi also requested for EU’s support for India’s joint proposal with South Africa for a TRIPS waiver on vaccine production-related patents. Earlier this week, the US has already announced its support. And now, “the EU’s support at WTO for this waiver is needed. As it will then ensure that the vaccine production can be scaled up for equitable and global access,” he added.
All the leaders, according to the joint statement issued at the end of the summit, underlined their commitment to a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific and discussed the new avenues of cooperation in the region.
What were the deliverables?
There were three agreements/MoUs: India-EU Leaders’ Meeting Joint Statement; India-EU Connectivity Partnership and Finance contract for second tranche of Euro 150 million for Pune Metro Rail project.
Both sides took important decisions on Trade & Investment Agreements and also adopted a comprehensive Connectivity Partnership.
The meeting in the India-EU+27 format has given a new momentum to the partnership for scaling ever greater heights.
And today’s meeting also reflects the desire of the EU to further strengthen its relationship with India and to work together with India.