New Delhi hopes trade pact talks will resume at India-EU Summit


New Delhi

India on Friday expressed the hope that negotiations with the European Union (EU) on trade and investment agreements will resume at the India-EU Summit to be held in Portugal next month.

This was conveyed by the Indian side during a virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte. The two sides also agreed to upgrade their joint working group on water to the ministerial level and to launch a “strategic partnership in water”.

India and EU member states have decided to launch negotiations on separate trade and investment pacts as both sides believe it will be easier to finalise an agreement on investments, while contentious issues related to market access will take more time to be addressed. The EU is also keen to a predictable investment regime as individual agreements with most European states have already lapsed.

“The India-EU Summit was discussed, and we expressed the hope that in the summit in Porto, there will be resumption of negotiations for the India-EU trade agreement and the investment agreement,” Sandeep Chakravorty, joint secretary (Europe West) in the external affairs ministry, told a briefing after the summit.

“The Dutch prime minister was appreciative of this and said it is important both India and the EU have these agreements in place to incentivise more trade and investments,” he said, adding that the Netherlands is the third largest investor in India and an important player in the EU.

On the bilateral front, Modi and Rutte agreed to launch a “strategic partnership on water” in view of strong synergies between the water-related challenges of India and the expertise of the Netherlands, and to elevate the joint working group on water to the ministerial level.

The Netherlands is seen as a world leader in water use and management, especially in flood control, inland waterways and waste water recycling.

The two leaders also reviewed the ongoing bilateral projects under the Namami-Gange Programme and discussed upcoming joint interventions in projects such as “Water as Leverage” in selected towns in the Ganga Basin and a pilot project on pollution and waste management in a textile industrial cluster in Panipat.

The Netherlands, France and Germany have already adopted Indo-Pacific policies and are working to help the EU frame its strategy for the region. Chakravorty quoted Rutte as saying that India will have a critical role in any Indo-Pacific strategy. Rutte also said a Dutch frigate will sail to the Indo-Pacific in the coming months and exercise with the Indian Navy.

Covid-19-related cooperation and vaccines were also discussed in detail by the two leaders and Rutte appreciated India’s role in supplying personal protective equipment (PPE), pharmaceuticals and vaccines to other countries. Rutte also noted that an Indian company was present in the Netherlands to set up a European vaccine hub.

The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, acquired Bilthoven Biologicals of the Netherlands in 2012, and is currently working to make this a hub for vaccine manufacturing.

“The two sides favour a well-balanced trade system in pharmaceutical products. Patients and industry have an interest in securing transparent, open and predictable supply chains, and avoiding critical dependencies in active pharmaceuticals and in formulations,” said a joint statement issued after the summit.


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