India-EU leaders launch negotiations on trade, investment, GIs

New Delhi | Updated on May 08, 2021

Modi asks EU leaders to support IP waiver on Covid-19 medical products

India and the European Union agreed to resume free trade agreement (FTA) talks that were suspended eight years back and begin negotiations on trade and investment protection on parallel tracks at the India-EU Leaders’ Meeting held virtually on Saturday.

In the high-level meeting, attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leaders of EU member states and heads of the EU and the EC, an agreement was also reached on starting negotiations on a separate agreement on geographical indications which could be concluded separately or integrated into the trade agreement.

Other pacts signed in the meeting include an ‘India-EU Connectivity Partnership’ and a finance contract for the second tranche of €150 million for Pune Metro Rail project.

The Indian Prime Minister also called on the EU leaders to support India and South Africa’s proposal at the WTO for temporary waiver of Intellectual Property rights for Covid-related treatments and vaccines that could help improve supplies in developing countries and help the world fight the pandemic better. The US Trade Representative said this week that the US was ready to negotiate an IP waiver for vaccines at the WTO.

“We will be watching the evolving EU position on this issue,” said Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West), MEA, in a press briefing after the meeting.

Commenting on the EU’s position on the proposal for IP waiver at the WTO, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, at a press conference held by EU officials, said that it is very important to be open to this discussion. “We should also have close look at role of licensing as these are important topics to discuss,” she said.

‘Waiver only in the long run’

However, the EC chief added that the waiver could happen only in the long run and countries must not lose sight of the main urgencies now, which is ramping up vaccine production and ensuring that are fairly or evenly distributed.

On the resumption of the trade and investment talks, Swarup said negotiations for both trade and investment agreement will be pursued on parallel tracks with an intention to achieve early conclusion of both.

“The goal is to achieve a balanced, comprehensive, mutually beneficial agreement, and all issues will be on the agenda,” the Secretary said. The High-Level Dialogue on Trade and Investment headed by Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and his EU counterpart will decide when the trade and investment discussions will be resumed and the related timelines.

On protection of GIs, the two decided to work for an early conclusion of the Memorandum of Understanding between the EU Intellectual Property Office and Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade. A GI is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.

The India-EU Connectivity Partnership was also one of the important deliverables of the meet. “We aim at enhancing and widening cooperation between us through projects, including with third countries and regions, notably in Africa, Central Asia and the Indo-Pacific, in order to build digital, energy, transport and people-to-people connectivity,” the joint statement said.

The EU is the second largest export destination for India, after the US, with exports in April-March 2019-20 at $45 billion, accounting for 14.36 per cent of the country’s total exports. Imports from the bloc into India were at par with exports at $45 billion during the fiscal, accounting for 9.5 per cent of India’s total imports.

Published on May 08, 2021

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