The India-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will be a game-changer for bilateral relationship and India looks forward to a mutually beneficial conclusion of the negotiations within a ``reasonably short’’ timeline, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has said.

“India’s new approach to trade agreements addresses issues of non-tariff and behind-the-border barriers, quality standards and related benchmarks. With like-minded partners, we have actually demonstrated in recent years a fast-track change in our FTA negotiation processes,” Jaishankar said at the inaugural session of the CII India-Europe Business & Sustainability Conclave on Tuesday.

India’s FTAs with the UAE and Australia were actually concluded in record time, the Minister pointed out.

India’s large and growing middle-class population, and the fact that it is the only major economy to keep growing at well above 6 per cent per annum in the foreseeable future, makes it a preferred investment destination as well as a lucrative market for our trade partners, Jaishankar said. 

Highlighting the economic importance of the EU for India, he said the bloc was one of India’s largest and most important trade partners with bilateral trade in excess of $115 billion in 2021-22, which is the highest ever. 

Europe and India can strengthen each other’s strategic autonomy by reducing dependencies, cooperating on critical technologies and ensuring supply-chain restructuring, he said. The India-EU FTA is therefore a very important goal, and the India-EU Trade and Technology Council will provide the structure and strategic guidance to this partnership as it moves forward, the Minister added.

The India and the EU first started negotiating an FTA in 2007 but the talks were suspended in 2013 after six years of talks as no compromise could be reached on market access issues for certain key items, liberalisation of work visas and non-trade matters such as labour and environment .

Formal negotiations on an India-EU FTA and investment protection agreement re-started last year and attempts are on to fast-track the talks.

Green transition

On green transition, the Minister said that clean energy and green transition were central to the India-EU Connectivity Partnership and promoting green financing was the ignition for any long-term result-oriented outcome. Electric vehicles will be the next big thing for a green transition of India’s urban landscape, he added.

Denmark was the partner country for the conclave, while the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Malta and the UK were associates.