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India-EU FTA negotiations to resume in June

The move underscores growing co-operation between New Delhi and Brussels, as the US is the only other country that has a technical agreement with the EU, along the lines of the one signed with India now. The council is aimed at providing political-level oversight of the entire spectrum of the India-EU ties and to ensure closer coordination.

Both sides agreed that “rapid changes in the geopolitical environment highlight the need for joint in-depth strategic engagement”, according to an India-EU joint statement.
Both sides agreed that “rapid changes in the geopolitical environment highlight the need for joint in-depth strategic engagement”, according to an India-EU joint statement.

India and the European Union (EU) on Monday decided to set up a trade and technology council to boost bilateral ties, as the bloc’s president Ursula von der Leyen met Prime Minister Narendra Modi here, weeks before the two sides are to resume negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) in June.

The move underscores growing co-operation between New Delhi and Brussels, as the US is the only other country that has a technical agreement with the EU, along the lines of the one signed with India now. The council is aimed at providing political-level oversight of the entire spectrum of the India-EU ties and to ensure closer coordination.

Both the leaders reviewed progress in the India-EU Strategic Partnership, which also included negotiations for the FTA, and decided to further deepen cooperation in trade, climate, digital technology and people-to-people ties.

They also discussed issues relating to climate change and the possibility of collaboration in areas like green hydrogen.
Both sides agreed that “rapid changes in the geopolitical environment highlight the need for joint in-depth strategic engagement”, according to an India-EU joint statement.

The proposed trade and technology council could include discussions on the general data protection regulation, social media and broader digitalization efforts, Bloomberg had earlier reported, quoting an unnamed western official.

Formal negotiations with the EU for the FTA were stuck over stark differences over market access issues after 16 rounds of talks between 2006 and 2013. Both the sides have now decided to take the negotiation to its logical conclusion.

The EU president is on a two-day trip to India, which, analysts say, is part of Western efforts to persuade New Delhi to cut down on its ties with Russia, its top weapons supplier, in the wake of Moscow’s military aggression in Ukraine. The EU wants to project itself as a viable alternative to Russia, especially in trade and defence matters, said the analysts.

Last week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also visited India and pitched for hammering out an FTA by Diwali in October, apart from bolstering defence co-operation. Johnson’s visit was preceded by those of senior officials of the Biden administration and the foreign ministers of Russia and China.

India has stopped short of explicitly condemning Russia’s invasionbut has called for an immediate end to violence. “I think this relationship today is more important than ever. We have a lot in common but we are also facing a challenging political landscape,” von der Leyen said in her opening remarks during a meeting with Modi.

Russia’s war in Ukraine was a stark reminder that the reliance on Russian fossil fuels is not sustainable, von der Leyen had said at an event on Sunday, calling for deeper cooperation between the two sides to expand the use of clean energy.

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