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EU and India to restart trade talks after decade-long gap

The EU will resume trade talks with India after a nearly 10-year hiatus as western nations try to move New Delhi out of its historic ties to Russia.

Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, said on Friday that talks between the EU and India would begin in late June for agreements on trade, investment protection and other specific regional products known as “Geographical Indications”.

“For the European Union, the partnership with India is one of the most important relationships for the coming decade,” Dombrovskis said, adding that the EU was pursuing an “ambitious” timeline for signing the deal by the end of 2023.

The EU is pursuing further cooperation with India since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with which India has traditionally had close ties. During a trip to India in April, committee chair Ursula von der Leyen announced a new trade and technology council and the renewal of trade talks.

In a joint press conference with Dombrovskis, Indian Trade Minister Piyush Goyal said the talks herald “less competition, more cooperation” and sent a strong signal in support of global trade.

The announcement followed an exciting World Trade Organization meeting that concluded Friday in Geneva. The summit introduced a partial exemption from Covid-19 vaccine patents, cuts in fishing subsidies and the continuation of a ban on taxing digital products such as software that India had opposed.

Goyal called Dombrovskis his “partner in crime” during the two-day WTO negotiations.

The two trade envoys said the deal would focus on technology and digital trade, with India benefiting from European advances in artificial intelligence and the internet of things, as well as sustainable development and climate goals.

The EU is India’s third largest trading partner and second largest export destination. Annual trade between the two reached about €120 billion in 2021.

India, on the other hand, is the EU’s 10th largest trading partner, but Dombrovskis said this indicates “untapped potential” for further cooperation. The bloc’s foreign investment in India amounted to €87 million in 2020.

Formal negotiations for a trade agreement between India and the EU were opened in 2007 but broke up in 2013 due to disagreements over movement of workers and agricultural tariffs.

India has continued to buy weapons and energy from Russia, despite initial pressure from Western countries on New Delhi to show more support for Ukraine. In recent weeks, India has made an effort to diversify its offerings by reaching out to countries like Israel and the US for more military supplies.

The European Parliament’s trade committee said in a draft report on Thursday that while trade talks between the EU and India were welcome, a deal “should only come about as long as European values ​​and standards are respected”.

Lawmakers said they expected “quick fixes” to problems faced by European companies such as automakers and pharmaceutical companies in gaining access to the Indian market and that India should “ban discriminatory ‘Buy National’ policies that discourage imports.” “.

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