The Hindu Business Line - 13 July 2020
India-EU Summit may take a fresh look at long-pending FTA
By Amiti Sen
‘With new leaders at the European Commission and European Council, existing differences could narrow’
India and the EU may take a fresh look at the long-pending bilateral Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) and see if a meeting ground could be reached and the talks taken forward when leaders meet at the India-EU Summit on Wednesday, an official source has said.
“With new leadership taking charge of the European Council and the European Commission, there is a renewed interest in the bilateral free trade agreement. This may get translated into the talks re-starting,” the source, aware of the agenda for the meeting, told BusinessLine.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will represent India at the summit, to be held via video-conference, while the EU will be represented by European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The other issues that would be discussed at the summit include the impact of the on-going pandemic on the economies of India and the EU and what should be the agenda of various global institutions to deal with the crisis, the official said.
The two will also review political and security relations and focus on things that can be done together.
The new chiefs of the European Commission and European Council took over in December 2019 bringing in a new vision of uplifting the EU’s status in the international arena to match the bloc’s contribution to the global economy and polity, the source said.
“The new EU leadership is also keen to redraw its relationship with important trade partners such as India. In fact, PM Modi was one of the first leaders that the new Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission spoke to after taking over. This gives us confidence that the EU would want to be less rigid on pending issues,” the source added.
Negotiations for India-EU BTIA, launched way back in 2007, were suspended in 2014 following major differences over key market access issues including automobiles, wines & spirits, dairy and also movement of professionals. Last year, the EU had expressed interest in exploring a bilateral investment protection agreement (BIPA) with India that would be delinked from the proposed free trade pact, but no agreement was reached.
The EU is India’s largest trading partner accounting for about $100 billion bilateral trade in goods and $40 billion in services, with India running a small trade surplus.