Policy

As FTA hangs fire, EU wants India to extend investment pacts

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 13, 2018 Published on February 20, 2017

Geoffrey Van Orden, European Union Parliamentarian

Nirmala Sitharaman, Commerce and Industry Minister

EU Parliamentarians in India on five-day visit

The European Union (EU) has urged India to extend the Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs), which it has with the member countries, by at least six months beyond March 31 in order to sustain the steady flow of investments from that region into the country.

“It will be helpful if the BITs can be extended for six months. This has become a particular problem within the FTA (Free Trade Agreement) talks … But we want India to first give us the extension. We are meeting Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and this will be one of the elements that we intend to take up,” said Geoffrey Van Orden, Chair of The European Parliament Delegation for relations with India, here on Monday.

Van Orden is leading a delegation of European Parliamentarians who are on a five-day visit to India. Besides Sitharaman, the delegation will be meeting Finance Minister Arun Jailtey, Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh and the Minister of Power, Coal and Mines Piyush Goyal.

The EU has been engaging with India on this issue for several months now as it intends to negotiate a single comprehensive BIT with India instead of separate ones with each member countries.

Last month, the Commerce Minister categorically stated that India will not give extensions and all old BITs will be cancelled by March 31. According to Sitharaman, these countries were given period of one year to renegotiate the new BITs but since they did not do it, the government will have to let them lapse.

In the absence of a BIT, fresh investments coming from European nations will not have legal protection.

According to EU, it was not feasible for these countries to negotiate the BITs because now only European Commission will be negotiating the BIT on behalf of the 23-member countries.

“Many foreign investors of EU are now asking for guarantees. A number of European companies who are looking at India to invest are now seeking some kind of assurance,” said EU Ambassador to India Tomasz Kozlowski.

The first BIT to lapse was the one between India and the Netherlands. The remaining are slated to expire in March, April and May.

At present India has 83 BITs that were inked since 1994, out of which 57 countries were sent termination reminders last year, including the EU nations. They were asked to negotiate a new BIT based on the new text the Cabinet had approved in December 2015.

India felt the necessity to revise all the BITs as it was being dragged to courts by a number of international firms. India became the topmost country in the world that was being sued maximum number of times, according to UNCTAD.

FTA talks to resume?

Meanwhile, the EU has said there is now a “will” to move forward in the negotiations for having a free trade agreement (FTA), or Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) as it is officially called, with India.

However, according to Van Orden, there are several technical problems that continue to be stumbling blocks in resuming the talks, apart from the BIT issue.

India and EU have been negotiating the FTA since 2007.

Published on February 20, 2017
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