The European Union and India have agreed to resume stalled free trade negotiations and seek closer cooperation to combat climate change at a virtual summit, as concerns about China bring Brussels and New Delhi closer.
Partly overshadowed by the COVID-19 crisis in India, Saturday’s meeting brought together Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and all 27 bloc leaders for the first time in eight years as a sign of renewed EU interest in the region Indo-Pacific. .
Only the Prime Minister of India and the Chief Executive and President of the EU have participated in previous EU-India summits.
“We agreed to resume negotiations on a … trade agreement that would meet current challenges,” EU and Indian leaders said in a statement after the talks, adding that for the talks to be successful , both parties had to solve market access problems.
At the same time, the EU and India will start talks on a separate investment protection agreement and an agreement on geographical indications: famous brands often linked to the places where they are made, from French champagne to Darjeeling tea from the ‘India.
“There is a close relationship between the EU and India, but also great untapped potential,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “The most untapped potential is trade and investment.”
China’s rise from a benign trading partner to a rival power with a growing military presence has alarmed the West and its allies in the Indo-Pacific, where Brussels wants more influence.
“We agreed that, like the two largest democracies in the world, the EU and India have a common interest in ensuring security, prosperity and sustainable development in a multipolar world,” the joint statement said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated the resumption of talks.
“Negotiations have also stalled many times and that is why I am very glad that they have resumed,” he said after an informal EU summit.
He said he expected the work to move forward at a “much faster pace”.
EU-India trade talks froze in 2013 due to differences such as tariff reductions, patent protection, data security and the right of Indian professionals to work in Europe.
Today’s meeting has been a milestone in 🇪🇺🇮🇳 relations.
We agree that we will resume negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement.
At the same time, we will start negotiations on an EU-India investment protection agreement and on geographical indications. pic.twitter.com/FwA35u4G6K
– Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) May 8, 2021
Competition with China
The bloc’s leaders, at an EU summit in Porto, Portugal, faced pressure on the Modi government’s crackdown on dissent, with civil society groups, including Amnesty International, holding a vigil. to the candles outside the summit site.
Prior to the talks, Amnesty International called on EU leaders to press Modi to “live up to” shared values.
“Intolerance of dissent has been a hallmark of the time Prime Minister Modi spent,” said Eve Geddie, EU director of the rights group.
A 2020 study by the European Parliament put the benefits of a trade agreement for the EU with India at € 8.5 billion ($ 10.2 billion), although the estimate was made before the UK exit from the block.
The EU and India also agreed to build joint infrastructure projects around the world, especially in Africa, to be described as a connectivity partnership.
The deal follows an agreement between the EU and Japan in 2019, which sought an alternative to China’s vast Belt and Road Initiative (BIS) infrastructure strategy that sparked suspicion in the West and Tokyo.
The two sides also pledged to increase cooperation to limit climate change. The statement said the EU and India will hold meetings to collaborate on renewable energy, energy storage technology and modernization of electricity grids.