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EU, India updating positions on FTA: Kozlowski

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 31, 2018 Published on January 31, 2018

Many things have changed since 2015, points out EU’s Ambassador to India

 

European Union Ambassador to India Tomasz Kozlowski says the bloc remains committed to negotiating the long-pending Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India. In an interview with BusinessLine, he said post the protracted talks, both sides are now updating each other on the pact. Excerpts:

The European economy seems to be finally recovering now…

The EU has overcome the financial difficulties. We were in crisis a few years ago. As of now we can clearly state that economic and financial crises within the EU are over and, after four years of recovery stage, now the EU and its member states have embarked on a steady, sustainable economic growth path. Our economic growth has reached a level of 2.3 per cent in 2017, which is the fastest pace of economic growth in the last decade. Forecasts for the coming years are also positive.

What about the Eurozone?

The Eurozone is in a very good shape. Private consumption is growing. Unemployment in the euro area is expected to average at 9.1 per cent this year, its lowest level since 2009, as the total number of people employed climbs a record high. Inflation is expected to dip to 1.4 per cent in 2018 before climbing up to 1.6 per cent in 2019. The manufacturing sector is growing as consumption and exports are growing.

What has led to this growth?

We have strengthened our financial sector. The role of the European Investment Bank has been modified. Its role is now to handle conditions of the banking sector in EU member states. The banking union was put in place. Investments have been promoted. Overall, many instruments and new solutions have been put in place to stabilise the banking and financial sectors in EU member states and at the EU level. The European Commission has put in place a pro-investment plan.

Why is the EU not resuming FTA talks with India?

India is a very important partner for the EU in all sectors. In the last India-EU Summit in 2017, we designed a long-term agenda for developing our relations in all sectors. Overall, we can identify two main directions of our bilateral ties. During the summit, both sides agreed to re-engage actively towards relaunching negotiations in a time-bound manner for a comprehensive and mutually beneficial India-EU Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA).

There was also an informal meeting between the chief negotiators in November…

Both the chief negotiators met in the middle of November and a number of expert-level meetings discussing the specific issues is now going on. The intention on both sides is now to have another informal meeting of the chief negotiators in a few months’ time. The meeting is decided but the dates have to be fixed.

Why are the chief negotiators not meeting formally?

We are making a lot of effort to prepare timely relaunching of negotiations. This process is about identifying what the Indian interests are, what the European interests are, what we can expect from this proposed agreement, and what should be the scope of the agreement.

Does that mean talks are back to where it all began 10 years ago?

No, it is not. This exercise is to update ourselves. This not a stocktaking exercise. Since 2015 so many things have changed in Europe and in India. That is why we are updating our positions, we are identifying our interests, we are taking into account changes in legislation in India and in Europe. India has a new economic policy. All these have to be taken into account. And the EU is absolutely committed to conclude the FTA, including on investment protection.

Does the demand on tariff reduction in automobiles and wines and spirits still remain?

Our objective is to find an agreement which will be mutually beneficial to both sides. Any kind of international agreement should be balanced. We are in the process of discussing everything.

Is the EU now negotiating a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with India after the previous ones were revoked?

As of spring last year new investments from EU member states are not any more covered by investment protection. Overall, the idea is to have one agreement which will also cover all such issues.

But the EU is insisting on having the BIT concluded first and then m on FTA...

As of now, as I understand, the agreement is called ‘Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement’ and our mandate covers all issues. But it is a concern for us that new investments are not covered by any protection. That is why we are very interested in having an investment chapter as part of the agreement.

But again you have reservations on India’s BIT model …

We have changed our investment protection very much. It’s not the same as it was 10 years ago. Our dispute settlement mechanism was based on international arbitrage. Now we are open to new methods for dispute settlements.

What about granting India ‘data secure’ nation status from EU?

We are discussing this with India. This is an important issue for us and India. We want to be sure that exchange of data is done in a secure way.

What is your strategy to step up security cooperation with India? Are you on the same platform with India on cross-border terrorism, something that EU was in denial about earlier?

Both the EU and India have a rules-based international order. We are on the same platform concerning terrorism. We had clearly stated in the EU-India Summit Joint Statement on Cooperation in Combating Terrorism that we are committed to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

For the first time we included the names of terrorists and terror entities, such as Hafeez Saeed, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Dawood Ibrahim, Lashkar-e-Tayibba, Jaish-eMohammad and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. The EU listed Hizbul Mujahideen in 2005, even before the Americans did.

Published on January 31, 2018

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