EU and India restart efforts to forge FTA

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The EU and India have restarted negotiations to establish a free trade agreement, after previous efforts to reach a deal were abandoned due to lack of progress.

The European Union and India have returned to the negotiating table in an effort to finalize a free trade agreement (FTA).

Leaders of the bloc and the Asian nation made a commitment in May 2021 to resume talks. Previous attempts to establish an FTA began in 2007 but were suspended in 2013 after the two sides failed to make significant progress.

The next round of discussions is due to take place in New Delhi between June 27th and July 1st.

Brussels is pursuing an FTA with India as part of its strategy to create new bilateral deals that will take advantage of higher levels of economic growth projected in the Indo-Pacific region, Reuters reported.

EU negotiators are expected to seek lower trade tariffs that would facilitate greater access to Indian markets for goods including cars, alcoholic beverages and agri-food products such as cheese.

India, meanwhile, is likely to show a greater interest in services and easier visa access for Indian professionals looking to work in the EU.

European Commission executive vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis noted that the formal resumption of talks came just after the World Trade Organization's latest ministerial conference in Geneva. He said this event led to significant multilateral outcomes in key areas such as fisheries, ecommerce and the pandemic response, following "tough negotiations".

Turning to the EU-India relationship, Mr Dombrovskis said the two sides would be pursuing an "ambitious timeline", with a target to conclude talks by the end of 2023.

"These far-reaching negotiations on trade, investment protection and geographical indications open a new and exciting chapter in EU-India relations," he added.

"Together, we aim not only to boost economic growth and job creation, but also promote our shared values, work to protect the climate and secure our supply chains."

Indian commerce minister Piyush Goyal told a news conference this partnership will prove to be a "defining moment for world trade in the 21st century".

The EU and India already have strong commercial connections, with annual trade of approximately €120 billion (US$126.4 billion). The EU accounted for almost 11 percent of Indian trade in 2021, making it the Asian country's third-largest trading partner.

Only 2% of EU trade last year was with India. Brussels said this relatively small share highlights the "large untapped potential" that exists between the two sides.

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