European Parliament President to visit India in June; FTA talks set to gain momentum

Nayanima Basu Brussels | Updated on January 20, 2018

President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz

No date set for restart of talks, but back channel negotiations on

President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz is scheduled to visit India in June.

The visit comes within months of the EU-India Summit that was held on March 30 in Brussels, where it was decided to take the talks further.

Both sides are also gearing up to kick-start the stalled negotiations on the India-EU Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) that started nine years ago.

The topmost issue on Schultz’s agenda will be to re-start the BTIA negotiations, thereby paving the way for a formal round of talks, which has been stalled since 2013, sources told BusinessLine.

The negotiations for an India-EU BTIA began in 2007. Since then there have been 15 rounds of talks without any agreement. The contentious issues that have suspended the talks include tariff elimination in automobiles, auto components, and wines and spirits – which are some of the EU’s main demands.

According to EU officials, the talks are currently going on at a technical level through back channels. However, no date has been fixed yet for the re-start of a formal round of negotiations.

“We cannot allow ourselves to go back to the negotiating table and not be able to bring some real progress. So it is better to keep on preparing on a backstage level so that when we sit in front of each other we have something to deliver,” said Daniel Rosario, spokesperson, Trade - Directorate General Communication, European Commission.

Rosario also made it clear that while the EU is ready to give a new approach to the talks, it will not be ready to begin from the scratch.

He also said India’s move to cancel the chief negotiators’ meeting last year, after Hyderabad-based GVK’s drugs were banned, was “not justified”.

“It was not us who cancelled the talks. For us this was a step that was not justified ... We cannot ignore all the work that has been done so far,” he added.

Meanwhile, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has written to EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström for identifying a date for the next round of talks. According to Rosario, the Trade Commissioner’s office is working on it. India believes that most of EU’s time is being taken up by the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations with the US.

Following, the European Parliament President’s visit, the leadership on both sides are expected to meet again.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to meet President of the European Council Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during the Asia-European (ASEM) Summit which will take place in July in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

(The reporter is in Brussels on invitation of the Delegation of European Union to India)

Published on April 26, 2016

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