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Posted: Sunday, 09 May 2021 12:24

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India to Resume Talks with EU for FTA after 8 years Gap

May 09: India and the European Union have agreed to resume talks for a balanced, ambitious and comprehensive trade agreement and also launch negotiations for a stand-alone investment protection pact, according to a Statement by the External Affairs Ministry yesterday after PM Narendra Modi invited European Union to support the proposal by India and South Africa to waive patents on COVID-19 vaccines, said MEA after the India-EU leaders' summit

PM Modi was a special invitee to the online Summit held by 27 leaders of EU nations yesterday. The EU+27 format was unprecedented for India as well as the EU which has conducted such a meeting only once before, with President Biden of the USA in March 2021.

"We've just concluded a historic and successful India-EU Leaders' meeting. It was an unprecedented occasion where the PM of India was a special invitee. In his initial remarks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about the rationale of stronger relationship of India not just with the EU but with all EU member states and described India-EU strategic partnership as force multiplier for global goods in 21st century," reportedly said Vikas Swarup, MEA Secretary (West).

Also Read : India- EU Foreign Trade Agreement Talks might restart soon

India and the EU revived the Free Trade Agreement talks between the two, earlier suspended in 2013 after several meetings from 2007-2013 when the Indian government officials got busy with the general elections in 2014, which it lost to the BJP which did not continue with the suspended talks.

Also Read : European Union keen on FTA with India despite Protectionist Policies

Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s Finance Minister had announced on 16 April about the resumption of formal negotiations on India-EU trade deal during the leadership summit on 8 May in Porto after a bilateral virtual meeting with Portugal Foreign Affairs Minister Augusto Santos Silva.  She had also announced that PM Modi was also slated to attend the Summit.

PM has also invited EU member states to participate in India-EU High-Level Digital Forum that's likely to be held later this year, to enhance digital cooperation between India and EU via linking of start-ups supporting digital economy and for enhancing investments.

According to Minneapolis Star Tribune, Modi was scheduled to be at the online press conference after the meeting but didn't appear.

Also Read : India and EU getting Ready for FTA Talks in May

After practically a 7- year silence, the ministry has described the summit as a "watershed" moment in the ties, making one feel it is not the 7-year itch and India has decided to move ahead with the talks, post the recent Brexit from EU. After 16 rounds of talks between 2007 and 2013, negotiations for an India-EU FTA were stuck due to irreconcilable differences; the EU bloc had insisted that India cut import duties on automobiles and wine (which would benefit mainly France, Italy and Germany). The UK which was part of the EU then was insistent on reduction of duties on whisky.

One hopes some tangible agreement is arrived at before the election heat starts in 2023 for the general elections to be held in 2024. There is every likelihood of that which would imply that by 2024 the new reduced duty structure could be ready for the premier, high quality EU wines to enter India in a more conducive competitive environment.

Subhash Arora

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