Economy

Sweden stresses on need for EU-India free-trade agreement

Mirza Mohammed Ali Khan New Delhi | Updated on April 11, 2019 Published on April 11, 2019

Klas Molin, Swedish Ambassador to India

Ease of doing business in India has improved: Swedish envoy

Sweden has stressed on the need for a free trade agreement (FTA) between India and the European Union for ease of doing business for companies that want “predictability”.

“Part of that (FTA) would also hopefully flow an investment protection agreement. They can be negotiated together. Since the bilateral investment protection agreements have been ended by India over the last few years, this would be, I think, to many companies, a very important ingredient that would facilitate and increase trade,” said Klas Molin, Swedish Ambassador to India.

“The day we sit down to negotiate, perhaps you will see a less traditional type of agreement come out of it, because there are a number of new factors,” Molin added.

He also stressed on how Sweden is heavily dependent on trade, and that it shares a “sound” relationship with India. He underlined the need for more partnerships between companies from both countries. “If a Swedish company teams up with an Indian company or develops products that are interesting to consumers in our respective countries, I don’t see how it could not lead to more trade,” Molin said.

Betting big

Swedish firms like home-furnishing company IKEA and telecom player Ericsson are betting big on India. “Ericsson is bigger in India than anywhere else in the world. They have more people employed in India than any other country, Sweden included. IKEA has been sourcing in India for decades,” Molin said.

India’s talent and digital focus are aspects that present a huge advantage. “The possibility of having this kind of talent and brilliance with scale is fascinating,” he said. Molin also said that issues like healthcare, sustainable transportation and public safety are important issues in India and that both the countries’ governments intend to work together to address them.

“Quoting NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant liberally, I understood him to say that whatever solutions we can find for India, many of these will be applicable on a global scale,” Molin elaborated, referencing Kant’s address earlier on Thursday at the AI for All summit, an India-Sweden partnership event. Both the countries launched a joint Industrial R&D programme on the occasion.

Molin also said that it has become easier to do business in India. “Every year, the Swedish Chamber of Commerce puts out a survey to all its member companies. The survey indicates that the satisfaction rate (of doing business in India) is good. Major reforms like GST and Customs practises are making a difference,” said Molin. He also referenced IKEA’s retail entry and called it a “bi-partisan achievement”.

“It was actually under Manmohan Singh that rules on single-brand retail started changing,” he added.

Involving stakeholders

Engaging all stakeholders — government, academia, and industry or the ‘triple helix’ — is key to the Sweden-India partnership, Molin said. “We are talking more and more about a quadruple helix — also involving civil society and people,” he added.

Published on April 11, 2019
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