India and the European Union (EU) have decided to resume negotiations for a balanced and comprehensive trade agreement after a gap of eight years and unveiled an ambitious connectivity partnership, during a virtual meeting between Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi and leaders of 27 member nations of the bloc.
In his remarks, Modi invited the EU to support a proposal by India and South Africa to waive-off the patents on COVID-19 vaccines so that there can be equitable vaccine access for the entire world, officials said. However, there was no concrete decision on the matter from the EU side, according to EU officials. The meeting, which included the leaders of EU member states as well as the top leadership of the EU, decided to launch negotiations on two other key agreements, investment protection and geographical indications. The negotiations for the ambitious free trade agreement, launched in 2007, were suspended in 2013 amidst difference on crucial issues, which included tariff rules and market access.
In a written reply to a query in Lok Sabha, Union Minister of State (MoS) for Commerce and Industry Anupriya Patel said India and EU have agreed to resume the negotiations for a balanced, ambitious, comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement.
Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations, including those on specific issues, are to be held considering the interest of either side, said the minister. He further added that the commodities included / excluded in the FTA negotiations are to be finalized based on extensive consultations with the stakeholders, once negotiations resume.
Replying to a query on whether the government plans to revisit the existing regional trade agreements which are not in India‘s economic interests, the minister said that review of the existing FTAs is an ongoing process to maximise country’s export potential to benefit the domestic industry, and to make the FTAs more user friendly, simple and trade facilitative.
The resumption of the Human Rights Dialogue was welcomed, which nurtured a constructive engagement between both sides. To intensify cooperation in international human rights fora, was agreed in particular the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council. On the connectivity partnership, it reflected the ambition of both sides to build on their synergies and pursue sustainable joint projects in third countries, most notably in the Africa, Central Asia and Indo-Pacific region. The leaders underlined their commitment to a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific and discussed the new avenues of cooperation in the region.
Ahead of the summit, Modi and his Portuguese counterpart Antonio Costa, in a joint op-ed piece in Politico, said the EU-India trade agreement would send a powerful signal to the world in support of the benefits of international trade cooperation. In a series of tweets, Modi said, "I thank the leaders of EU and its Member States for their continued commitment to strengthening relationship with India. I also thank my friend Prime Minister @antoniocostapm for this initiative and according high priority to India during Portuguese Presidency of the EU Council."
On trade, the joint statement said the High-Level Dialogue on Trade and Investment has been tasked to ensure progress on market access issues and supervise negotiations, as well as keep progress on cooperation on regulatory aspects and resilient value chains under review.