Sunday, 9 May 2021

EU panic: Brussels revives talks with New Delhi as Boris set for historic India trade deal

India trade deal ‘not possible’ without Brexit says Liz Truss

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The Prime Minister is tipped to sign a hefty trade package with New Delhi within the next 12 months. On Tuesday Downing Street said the new partnership would “pave the way” for a future UK-India Free Trade Agreement. A draft statement from the EU and India suggests Brussels is desperate to get a deal of its own with the South Asian nation, which is the sixth largest economy in the world.

And in a clear sign the bloc are keen to get the ball rolling as soon as possible, the document is scheduled to be signed by EU ambassadors on Wednesday.

It will then need to be approved by India’s government.

The rise of China on the global stage is believed to be one of the factors behind the swift action.

The reignition of trade talks between the 27-member bloc and India comes eight years after they hit a brick wall over differences on the trade of cars, food and other goods.

If it is approved, the EU and India will say: “We agreed to resume negotiations for a balanced, ambitious, comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade agreement which would respond to the current challenges,” according to the draft statement.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to EU chief executive Ursula von der Leyen on Monday about restarting discussions on trade.

The pair will be joined by European Council president Charles Michel and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the virtual meeting.

Mr Michel will also talk to Prime Minister Modi before the Saturday summit.

A 2020 study by the European Parliament put the potential benefits of a trade deal with India for the EU at up to €8.5 billion (£7.3 billion).

Britain will start negotiations on its own trade deal with India later this year.

On Tuesday Mr Johnson spoke to his Indian counterpart at a virtual meeting.

India is battling a devastating new wave of Covid and its healthcare system is threatening to buckle.

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On Monday Mr Johnson insisted the UK would “always be there for India in its time of need” as he announced 1,000 more ventilators would be flown to the Covid battered nation.

In recent years India’s economic growth has sprinted to overtake China.

This makes it an attractive market for Europe to do business with.

India is the EU’s to export destination, taking about 15 percent of its foreign sales, according to EU data.

Although India has gradually lowered its tariffs since 1990, the EU still faces high levies exporting crops, food, drinks and motor vehicles, areas seen as obstacles to a deal.

In 2013 trade talks stalled after both sides failed to bridge differences on multiple issues, such as the extent of tariff reductions, patent protection, data security and the right of Indian professionals to work in Europe.

The draft statement details how the EU and India hope to build joint infrastructure projects around the world in the transport, energy and digital sectors.

It included a veiled criticism of Chinese-financed projects that have sent debts in some central Asian and Balkan countries soaring.

It read: “Our partnership will promote a transparent, viable, inclusive, sustainable, comprehensive, and rules-based connectivity.”

Since 2013, China has launched construction projects across more than 60 countries, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, seeking a network of land and sea links with Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

Britain, the world’s fifth largest economy, sees closer ties with India as a key pillar of its post-Brexit push to seek trade and influence in the Indo-Pacific region and address growing Chinese dominance.

Mr Johnson said: “The agreements we have made today mark the beginning of a new era in the UK-India relationship.

“The UK and India share many fundamental values… there is a living bridge uniting the people of our countries.”

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