India and the European Union (EU) on Wednesday announced the launch of a high-level economic and investment dialogue to work out a bilateral trade and investment pact as countries and firms look to decouple and diversify supply chains from China.
The dialogue is to be helmed by commerce minister Piyush Goyal and EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan. The two are to meet in the next few months to discuss bilateral and multilateral issues of interest, Indian and European officials said.
This was one of the key outcomes of the 15th India-EU summit held by video link on Wednesday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi headed the Indian side while the EU was represented by Charles Michel, president of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, president, European Commission (EC).
Briefing reporters on the outcome of talks, Vikas Swarup, secretary-west in the foreign ministry, said Modi, Michel and Von der Leyen “recognized that the post-covid economic recovery priorities offer the opportunity to unleash the full potential of India-EU economic ties." Modi, he said, invited European firms to invest in India “taking into account its efforts to improve ease of doing business and regulatory environment and an aim to integrate India into global value supply chains."
India has been seeking to woo firms looking at relocating from China, with Modi announcing a slew of incentives including liberalized labour laws in recent months.
Swarup said both sides are committed to working out an ambitious trade pact that is acceptable to both sides. A joint statement said India and the EU “reaffirmed their commitment to work towards balanced, ambitious and mutually beneficial trade and investment agreements, opening markets and creating a level playing field on both sides."
“The high-level dialogue will aim at fostering progress on the trade and investment agreements, addressing trade irritants and improving conditions for traders and investors on both sides as well as discuss supply chain linkages," the note said.
On the strategic front, the two sides unveiled a road map for cooperation over the next five years, announced a maritime dialogue, agreed to boost cooperation between their navies and conclude an agreement between Europol and the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Data protection, artificial intelligence and clean energy were other areas that the EU was looking at deepening cooperation with India, von der Leyen said.