The Indian Express | 30 April 2022
India, EU to hold talks on FTA in June, set 2023-2024 target
by Karunjit Singh
India and the European Union are set to hold an initial round of negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement in June with the aim of concluding an FTA by late 2023 or early 2024, EU Ambassador to India and Bhutan, Ugo Astuto, said on Friday.
India had initiated negotiations for an FTA with the 27-country economic bloc in 2007, but the talks stalled in 2013 as both sides failed to reach an agreement on key issues including intellectual property rights, duties on automobiles and spirits, and the movement of professionals. The two sides decided to resume negotiations in May last year.
Addressing a press conference, Astuto said that Indian and European officials had “set the parameters and a clear roadmap” for negotiations. He noted that both sides expected a deal to be struck before the Lok Sabha elections in India and the EU parliamentary elections, which are both set to be held in 2024.
Earlier this week, President of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, visited India and held meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. The two sides agreed to establish a trade and technology council which will allow India and the EU to address challenges in trade, trusted technology and security, deepening cooperation in these fields. The US is the only other country which has a similar agreement with the EU.
India has been increasingly looking at international trade as a key engine of economic growth. Earlier this year, it concluded a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with the UAE and an interim trade deal with Australia. India is also in talks with Canada and the UK for FTAs. During his visit to India last week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the two countries wanted to conclude negotiations for a trade agreement by October. India is currently pursuing an “early harvest” or interim trade agreement with Canada.
Asked if India and the EU were considering an interim deal prior to the conclusion of a full FTA, Astuto said the two sides were only looking at a comprehensive trade deal.
Bilateral merchandise trade between India and the EU stood at about $103.4 billion in the first ten months of FY2022, with India exporting goods worth about $57.0 billion to EU member countries and importing goods worth about $46.4 billion from the bloc. Outbound shipments to EU countries accounted for about 15.1 per cent of India’s total exports while inbound shipments accounted for about 8.4 per cent of imports in the April 2021-January 2022 period.
Bilateral trade in services between India and the EU was EUR 32.7 billion in 2020 with India exporting services worth EUR 17.3 billion and importing services worth EUR 13.1 billion. The data on bilateral trade in services for FY2022 is not available.
EDot: 3rd largest trading partner
India and the EU are aiming to conclude an FTA by late 2023 or early 2024. This would be the most significant FTA for India as EU is its third largest trading partner after the US and China.