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Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

India-EU free trade deal likely to get fresh lease of life this week

This will be the first meeting between the two sides since Ursula von der Leyen was elected as president of the EC

NEW DELHI : The India-European Union (EU) free trade agreement could get a fresh lease of life after the India-EU Summit this week, a person familiar with the development said on Monday, as New Delhi looks to attract foreign investments and European nations seek to cut economic over-dependence on some countries.

Trade and investment will be an issue when Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the virtual summit with leaders of the EU—Charles Michel, president of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, president, European Commission (EC). This will be the first meeting between the two sides since von der Leyen was elected as head of the EC last year. This is the 15th meet between the two sides, though the first India-EU Summit took place in 2000 in Lisbon.

The person cited above said though discussions on a bilateral trade and investment treaty first started in 2007, “at some stage there was a feeling that we should give a pause to those negotiations". In the past few years engagement on free trade or investment arrangements have not been “very substantive", he said. With the von der Leyen Commission coming into office in December, “there have been initial exchanges at various levels—at the level of the Prime Minister, the commerce minister and the external affairs minister," he said, adding that both sides feel that “maybe it’s time for us to look at these issues afresh and try to see if there’s meeting ground." “Therefore, the Summit will be critical in terms of trying to probe a meeting ground between the two sides to find a way forward."

The development comes amid debates in Europe about the “over-dependence of EU on some suppliers", with many leaders “publically (speaking) about economic sovereignty, which was not something used very often in the lexicon of the EU earlier". It refers to instances of countries looking to reduce economic dependence on China and shift supply chains to other nations amid the coronavirus outbreak. “There is talk also of strategic autonomy, which requires not being dependent for critical supplies on the outside world," the person added.

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