India-European Union set to expand business tiesBy Sarwar Kashani, IANS
Thursday, December 9, 2010
BRUSSELS - India and the 27-nation European Union are set to expand economic ties by setting the stage for a major trade and investment deal that is expected to multiply the quantum of business between them. The agreement is expected to generate two-way trade worth about 100 billion euros.
The two sides cleared the decks for the agreement by reaching an understanding on some contentious issues ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to this Belgian capital, beautifully decked up with lights, wreaths and festive crafts for the Christmas celebrations.
And by the Easter celebration next year, the broad-based investment and trade agreement (BITA), also called the free trade agreement, would be initialed by the two sides, official sources said.
Manmohan Singh who arrived here Thursday will attend the 11th India-EU summit following which the two sides will announce a progress report on their hectic negotiations for the last three years over the deal.
Exporters in Europe see lots of economic opportunities - in sectors like cars, luxury goods and fashion - in having broad based business ties with India, one the world’s fastest growing economies. With a rapidly expanding middle-class, India has a huge potential customer base in its 1.2 billion people.
The EU’s trade in goods with India, that is the its ninth most important trading partner, picked up in the first nine months of 2010 after a slump in 2009 due to the global recession, according to data released here Thursday. For India, the EU is its largest trading partner with bilateral trade touching 70 billion euros this year.
The two sides missed a target of finalizing the deal by this month but negotiations took longer than expected amid differences over issues like EU linking the pact with topics such as India’s performance on climate change and reducing child labour and greater market access.
Indian officials say the issue were irrelevant to negotiations for commercial ties and any such pact had to be acceptable to its parliament.
The other obstacle in finalizing the deal was a proposed clause from India on easier immigration rules for Indians seeking to find work in Europe, particularly Britain which has capped immigration. It also includes matters such as intellectual property rights
But the issues have been resolved and the two sides have reached an agreement paving the way for conclusion of the deal, an official said.
After attending the summit, Manmohan Singh will seek to strengthen India-Belgium bilateral ties during his stay in Brussels till Saturday morning. He is scheduled to meet with Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme at a working dinner Friday evening.
On the second leg of the three-day tour to Europe, the Indian prime minister will arrive in Berlin Saturday afternoon for talks with German President Christian Wulff and Chancellor Angela Merkel during his eight-hour stay in the German capital.
The talks are expected to make a push for reforms in the UN. Both India and Germany, elected as non-permanent members to the UNSC who will begin their two-year terms in January, are aspirants for a permanent seat in a revamped council.
(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)