The Economic Times - 19 April 2021
India-EU Porto summit to see progress on FTA
The India-EU Summit in Porto early next month could see progress on a free trade agreement and treaties on investment protection and geographical indications, Portuguese ambassador to India Carlos Pereira Marques told ET.
“Prime-Minister Narendra Modi’s presence in Porto, on May 8, will definitely constitute a historic milestone, as he will meet there, for the first time ever, the 27 EU’s heads of state and government, on one hand, and will co-host, with Prime-Minister António Costa, an India-Portugal Summit, on the other,” Marques told ET in an interview, ahead of the Summit in the coastal Portuguese city.
This will be Modi’s second visit to Portugal as PM. Portuguese leaders have visited India a number of times over the past few years, eyeing to open a new chapter in ties.
The FTA and the other two agreements are being envisaged between India and the EU, the Portuguese envoy said. "We are confident that we may be able to announce some progress on these crucial areas at the Porto meeting and both India and the EU are working actively — at political and technical levels — in order to achieve this ambitious goal. This is a momentum not to be missed," he added.
“Our expectations for this Summit are indeed high, ever since our rich and diversified relationship has attained a solid comfort level, based on maturity and trust, the time has come to consubstantiate it with a more structured approach and outline a clear perspective of the future that it has lacked until now. This will be then a time of evaluation and planning, on the political, economic, scientific, technical and people-to-people levels,” Marques said.
The expectations of both India and the EU, concerning the deliverables of the High Level Leaders’ Meeting of Porto, are ambitious and go far beyond the usually more consensual areas, such as the green and digital transition, or connectivity, the envoy said, adding, they include, in fact, a true reinvention of the EU-India’s political and strategic relationship — whose role became pivotal as a result of the growing challenges of the 21st century multipolar world — and more traditionally demanding areas such as trade and investment.
“Both sides are fully aware of the historic opportunity provided by the Porto meeting and are willing to seize it, with an open minded and constructive approach. The very challenging and uncertain times we live in emphasise even more the urgency of this renewed convergence of like-minded allies,” he said.
The Summit proves how unanimously Europe recognises the important role India has to play in Asia and how keen it is to deepen its ties with this fundamental partner, with whom it shares the values of democracy and respect for the rule of law, according to the envoy.
Listing possible outcomes from the bilateral part of the visit, the envoy said: “Defence is a very dynamic and promising area of our relations and will be, of course, on top of our priorities. We are also confident to achieve important outcomes regarding mobility. A Business Forum will take place on the sidelines of the Summit, aiming at boosting our trade and investment to new levels, as its growth potential is immense and remains largely unexplored.”
When asked about the slow bureaucratic EU process, Marques said: “It is true that the decision process within the EU is complex, involving different entities at different levels, sometimes with diverse sensibilities and approaches. But on fundamental matters, the common interest of the union always prevails and our relationship with India, at this stage, definitely benefits from that uncontroversial priority status.”
The envoy also referred to the India-Portugal diaspora connect. “Our Prime Minister, certainly the most distinguished representative of the Indian diaspora in Portugal, is the best example of that, having established with India a unique relationship, based on trust and proximity. The Indian citizens living in Portugal are fully integrated and we value their contribution to the progress of our country, adding diversity to our already very rich culture.”