Both sides showed interest on resuming FTA negotiations: European Union after trade talks with India

NEW DELHI: The European Union has said its first high-level dialogue on trade with India saw interest by both sides in resuming negotiations for an ambitious, comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade and investment pact once their respective approaches and positions are “close enough”.

It said the two sides had “open and constructive” exchanges on a broad range of issues with an aim of enhancing EU-India bilateral trade and investment relations.

The EU said the dialogue covered issues like impact of the coronavirus pandemic as well as production of vaccines and their distribution.

The decision to establish the high-level dialogue mechanism on trade and investment was taken at the 15th EU-India summit in July last.

The meeting on Friday was co-chaired by Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and Valdis Dombrovskis, the executive vice-president and commissioner for trade of the EU.

The negotiations between India and the EU on a free trade agreement have been stalled since May 2013, when both sides failed to bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues, including data security status for the IT sector.

The negotiations were launched in June 2007.

“Minister Goyal and Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis reiterated their interest in resuming negotiations for ambitious, comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade and investment agreements once their respective approaches and positions are close enough,” the EU said in a statement.

“In the meantime, they examined alternative approaches and looked into the possibility of opening new areas of cooperation, for instance in relation to the resilience of global value chains and regulatory cooperation, notably in relation to new technologies,” it said.

The statement was released by the EU’s office in India on Monday.

“In the run up to the Leaders’ Meeting, the co-chairs tasked experts to look into the feasibility of resuming work on trade and investment agreements; new areas of cooperation (regulatory aspects and resilient value chains); as well as enhancing collaboration on WTO reform,” the EU said.

“This will be followed by another meeting of the high-level dialogue to take stock of experts’ discussions ahead of the Leaders’ Meeting,” it said.

The EU-India annual summit is expected to be held later this year.

The EU said Dombrovskis and Goyal discussed trade and investment issues with emphasis on the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as vaccine production and distribution mechanisms, including value chain linkages.

The two sides exchanged views on “the state of play of EU-India bilateral trade and investment relations, and possible ways forward”, it said.

“The two sides recalled their continued attachment to the rules-based multilateral trading system,” the EU added.

It said Dombrovskis and Goyal further exchanged views on various key policy developments and market access issues.

“The EU side provided an update on the ongoing review of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences, which expires end of 2023, and on the work towards EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism under the European Green Deal, while the Indian side provided an updated on the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Self-Reliant India’ initiatives,” the EU said.