India is an important trade partner for EU, says ambassador

April 14, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 05:40 am IST - Mumbai:

EU is interested in a comprehensive FTA with India, says Tomasz Kozlowski.— File photo

EU is interested in a comprehensive FTA with India, says Tomasz Kozlowski.— File photo

The European Union (EU) considers India a very important prospective trade partner and will continue to pursue discussions on a free trade agreement (FTA), which has been elusive even though talks started way back in 2007.

“India is very important for EU considering the fact that it is the largest democracy and also the second-largest populous country,” said Tomasz Kozlowski, ambassador of the European Union, while addressing a select media meet.

He also highlighted the fact that India is the largest trading partner for EU with the trade value pegged at $100 billion in 2015.

“The trade balance is slightly in favour of India that proves that compared to imports, India exports more to the EU,” he said.

Incidentally, the FTA has been under discussion for long and a conclusion of the talks still seems to be some time away. According to Mr Kozlowski, who was earlier the EU ambassador for South Korea, such FTA-related talks take at least 5-7 years to be sealed.

“Between 2007 and 2013, there were negotiations on FTA and then, talks were put on hold. Thereafter, there were chief negotiator-level talks in January followed by secretary-level talks in February. Though we have still not decided to resume official talks, EU is interested in an ambitious and comprehensive FTA with India,” he said, adding that concerns have been raised by both the sides that have hampered the pace of talks.

According to Mr Kozlowski, the European Union is positive on talks but first, the two have to reach an agreement on what should be the main elements of the deal. Due to the global economic slowdown, however, there was not much increase in the quantum of trade between the EU and India in the last few years, he says.

The diplomat, however, is bullish on the new government in India and feels that the EU could be a partner in many government programmes like Make in India, Clean Ganga and Digital India.

“The new government has given a new impetus to the economy by reaching out to new partners. A number of reform processes have been introduced or are being discussed. The business environment is also becoming better,” he said.

The 13th summit between the EU and India took place in Brussels on March 30, which saw participation from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman along with Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission and Donald Tusk, president of the European Council.

“The leaders reconfirmed their commitment to give new momentum to the bilateral relationship endorsing the EU-India Agenda for Action 2020 as a common roadmap to jointly guide and strengthen the India-EU Strategic Partnership in the next five years. It encompasses a wide range of areas for cooperation such as foreign and security policy, trade and investment, economy, global issues as well as people to people contacts,” said a joint statement issued post the EU-India Summit.

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