New Delhi: India hopes to conclude talks for a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) within a year and work closely with the bloc to reform international financial institutions, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Friday.
In a meeting with visiting European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Singh outlined the need to cooperate on issues such as the global economic crisis, climate change, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
The meeting comes as the global economy has been showing signs of tentative recovery and talks on global trade are being revived.
“Despite the economic slowdown, I am happy to note that trade in goods and services between India and EU has doubled over the past five years to reach almost €80 billion,” Singh told reporters after the meeting.
“Both sides agreed that a broad-based trade and investment agreement is in our mutual interest and we have expressed the hope that the negotiations can be completed in a period of one year,” he added.
The two sides launched negotiations in 2007 for a free trade agreement, but progress was slow due to differences over intellectual property rights and EU efforts to link trade with climate and India’s social sector performance.
In recent months, India has expedited trade talks with various trading blocs, including the EU and the US, to boost its exports, which have been declining since September 2008.
The EU is among India’s biggest trading partners. Indian exports jumped 29% from the previous year to $34.5 billion in 2007-8, according to government data, and the proposed pact is expected to help bilateral trade exceed $237 billion by 2015.
The two sides would also work closely for reforms in international institutions, Singh said, referring to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
India has been pressing for a greater say for emerging economies at the IMF, especially after the global crisis, and the G-20 finance ministers are expected to discuss these issues again at a meeting this week in Scotland.