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India, EU summit agrees on new agenda for strategic partnership

The BTIA negotiations have remained deadlocked over growing differences regarding greater market access sought by both aides for merchandise exports

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Strategic Partnership,india-eu Summit

BS Reporter  |  New Delhi 

India and the European Union (EU) have endorsed the 'EU-India Agenda for Action 2020' as a common road map for the strategic partnership in the next five years, the European Commission (EC) said on Thursday.

However, the EC remained muted on one of the major focus of the summit, negotiations on the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) - the official free trade pact which has been pending since 2007.

"The leaders welcomed that both sides have re-engaged in discussions on how to further the EU-India broad-based BTIA negotiations," it said, without announcing a possible completion date for the talks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on a day-long trip to Brussels to attend the 13th India-EU Summit, met European Commission President Donald Tusk.

The agenda will build on the joint action-plans of 2005 and 2008 and take into account cooperation in fields like climate change, trade and business, foreign policy, etc.

The BTIA negotiations have remained deadlocked over growing differences regarding greater market access sought by both aides for merchandise exports. However, India's commerce ministry officials said the EU has consistently sought lower import duties on a range of commodities. This time, the EU is seeking the lowering of tariffs on automobiles and wine products.

The new agenda pushes for a broad based approach to "resolve trade irritants in particular concerning goods, services and investments, and strengthen trade and investment relations".

On this note, issues related to facilitation of greater movement of professionals from one country to another, arising out of the Mode 4 provisions of the 1995 General Agreement on Trade in Services is another point of contention between the two sides. This also involves India's demands to be classified a data-safe country, which will help Indian information technology and outsourcing companies gain a foothold.

Other than being India's largest trading partner and its biggest export destination, the 28-member bloc has also been New Delhi's 'strategic partner' since 2004. Although two-way commerce was $98.52 billion in 2014-15, the EU's share in India's total trade has progressively shrunk in recent years.

Similarly, Indian exports to the bloc have shrunk from 21.84 per cent in 2004-05 to 16.04 per cent in 2014-15. Imports have witnessed a similar slide over the same period, going down from 17.30 per cent to 10.98 per cent.

India has also signalled the establishing of a mechanism to facilitate investments of all member states of the 28-member bloc. The agenda also spoke about the "creation of favourable circumstances for investment".

With an eye on addressing the import ban by the EU against more than 700 generic drugs clinically tested by Hyderabad-based GVK Biosciences, the agenda has also promised regular meetings of the EU-India Joint Working Group on pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and medical devices.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) signed an agreement with India to release the first tranche of €200 million of its total €450 million loan towards the construction of the Lucknow Metro's first line. The bank, which had committed to support long-term investment in infrastructure in India, also announced that its regional office for South Asia will come up in New Delhi soon.

Before the summit, EU leaders had complained of the slow progress in India regarding the trial of two Italian marines accused of killing Indian fishermen in 2012. This matter, along with that of 'fourteen Estonian and six UK Guards sentenced to prison by an Indian court', was discussed, the EU said.

The adoption of the 'Joint Declaration between the EU and India on a Clean Energy and Climate Partnership' also showed India's readiness to engage other countries as part of its climate change policy.

The leaders from both sides endorsed the establishment of the Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility (CAMM), aimed at organising regular migration and prevention of irregular migration and human trafficking.

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First Published: Fri, April 01 2016. 00:31 IST
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