India, EU free trade pact talks remain deadlocked

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 08, 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with President of the European Council Donald Franciszek Tusk at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi on Friday   -  PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi flanked by Donald Franciszek Tusk (left), President of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission prior to their meeting at Hyderabad House ,in New Delhi on Friday. (Photo: Kamal Narang)

New Delhi keen on discussing terror, security issues; EU pushes trade agenda

Despite high hopes, the 14th India-EU Summit was unable to set in motion the stalled negotiations for concluding the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA), or Broad Based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA).

While the European Union (EU) was quite upbeat on pushing the talks, which had started in 2007, and finalise a date for a formal round of negotiations to take place, India was not keen to do so unless both sides resume the talks afresh, sources told BusinessLine.

Conclusion of the FTA was the top most agenda of the European leaders, but India was more eager to discuss issues related to counter-terrorism and security.

Under the FTA, the issue of data adequacy and greater market access was discussed at length during the summit-level meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council and Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, sources said.

The BTIA was almost mentioned as a passing reference in the India-EU joint statement, which stated that both sides agreed to “re-engage actively towards timely relaunching negotiations for a comprehensive and mutually beneficial India-EU BTIA.”

Interestingly, during a press conference after the summit, Modi did not mention the proposed FTA even once although he said India is committed to working together with the EU to deepen trade and investment ties.

However, the Europeans were quite vocal about it. They highlighted that two-way trade that has reached $95 billion in 2016 can be further boosted by having the FTA.

“Once the circumstances are right only then we will resume it,” said Juncker.

During his address to the CII, Junker said the EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem and Minister of Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu will soon be meeting in Marrakech, Morocco next week on the sidelines of an informal meeting of key World Trade Organisation (WTO) members.

The BTIA talks have been stuck mainly because over slashing of import tariffs on European cars and alcohol and recognising India as ‘data-secure’ country that will enable free flow of data between India and EU.

During his speech, Juncker made it clear that if India wants to be recognised as ‘data-secure’ country then it has to conform to EU’s rules. So far there had been only 13 rounds of official talks on the BTIA. The last round was held in 2013. Since then both sides have met informally for almost four times, said Ruchi Ghanshyam, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs.

Terrorism, Rohingya discussed

Adopting a Joint Statement on Cooperation in Combating Terrorism, both sides agreed to take decisive and concerted actions against globally proscribed terrorists and terror entities, including Hafeez Saeed, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Dawood Ibrahim, Lashkar-e-Tayibba, Jaish-eMohammad, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Haqqani Network, Al Qaeda, ISIS (Da’esh) and their affiliates.

India and EU also discussed the Rohingya crisis and urged Myanmar to implement the Kofi Annan-led Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations and work with Bangladesh to enable the return of the displaced persons from all communities to Northern Rakhine State.

Published on October 06, 2017

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