India-EU leaders meeting: India, EU to resume negotiations for comprehensive free trade deal

India-EU leaders meeting: The leaders also agreed on a  comprehensive and ambitious Connectivity Partnership covering digital, energy, transport and people-to-people connectivity. T

Created On: May 9, 2021 14:37 ISTModified On: May 9, 2021 14:37 IST
India-EU leaders meeting, Source: Twitter

India and the European Union leaders agreed to resume negotiations for a balanced and comprehensive free trade deal and investment agreement during the European Council Meeting on May 9, 2021. 

The leaders also agreed on a  comprehensive and ambitious Connectivity Partnership covering digital, energy, transport and people-to-people connectivity. They also  agreed to have dedicated dialogues on WTO issues, market access issues, regulatory cooperation and supply chain resilience, demonstrating the desire to deepen and further diversify economic engagement

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had virtually joined in the meeting of the European Council as a special invitee of European Council President, Charles Michel. PM Modi participated in the meeting along with the Heads of State of all the 27 EU Member States. 

Key Highlights

The India-EU Leaders' meeting was hosted by Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa, as Portugal currently holds the Presidency of the European Union Council.

•The meeting was held in a hybrid format with the participation of leaders of all the 27 EU Member States as well as the President of the European Council and the European Commission.

•The heads of all 27 European Nations have met only once before in this format and that was with the US President in March 2021. This was the first time that India attended such a meeting.

Important Decisions 

India-EU agree to resume negotiations on FTA

•The leaders welcomed the decision to resume negotiations for a balanced and comprehensive free trade and investment agreements.

•The negotiations will be pursued parallelly with an intention to achieve an early conclusion of both agreements together.

•This will enable the two sides to realise the full potential of the economic partnership.

Significance

The negotiations for a free trade agreement was suspended in 2013 after several rounds of talks spanning six years. Both sides have worked intensively over the last few months to arrive at a common understanding. 

India and the EU have also announced dedicated dialogues on WTO issues, regulatory cooperation, market access issues and supply chain resilience.

Connectivity Partnership

•India and the EU have launched an ambitious and comprehensive 'Connectivity Partnership' that will be focused on enhancing digital, energy, transport and people-to-people connectivity. 

•The partnership will be based on shared principles of social, fiscal, economic, climate and environmental sustainability, and respect for international law and commitments. 

Significance

It is expected to catalyse private and public financing for connectivity projects and foster new synergies for supporting connectivity initiatives in third countries, including in the Indo-Pacific.

India-EU Strategic Partnership 

•The India-EU leaders further expressed their desire to strengthen the India-EU Strategic Partnership, which is based on a shared commitment to democracy, fundamental freedoms, multilateralism and rule of law. 

•They exchanged views in the following areas- 

-Foreign policy and security

-COVID-19

-Climate and environment

-Trade, connectivity and technology

•India and the EU also agreed to boost bilateral cooperation on digital and emerging technologies such as AI, 5G and Quantum and High-Performance computing including through the early operationalization of the Joint Task Force on AI and the Digital Investment Forum.

•India also welcomed the EU's decision to join Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).

On COVID-19

•The India-EU leaders discussed on forging closer cooperation on combating the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery, reforming multilateral institutions and tackling climate change. 

•India further expressed appreciation to the prompt assistance provided by the EU and its member states to combat its second wave of COVID-19.

•Indian PM Narendra Modi said that collaboration between India and European Union (EU) is essential for stopping the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring a sustainable and inclusive recovery in a more digital and greener world.

Climate Change

•The India-EU summit focused on achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, which includes strengthening climate change mitigation as well as adaptation and resilience to the impacts of climate change and providing means of implementation including finance and fully implementing them without delay.

•The leaders also agreed to urgently address the interdependent challenges of climate change such as biodiversity loss and pollution. 

•They also stressed the importance on intensifying cooperation in combating plastic pollution and protecting the marine environment. 

•They have also pledged to contribute to the success of the upcoming Biodiversity COP15, Climate COP26 and 2nd UN Ocean Conference. 

•The leaders have also agreed to scale up their cooperation on water management in the framework of the India-EU Water Partnership to tackle water pollution. 

•They also agreed to strengthen joint efforts for mitigation, adaptation and resilience to the impacts of climate change and providing means of implementation including finance in the context of COP26.

Indo-Pacific Region 

•The leaders also reiterated the importance of a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific.

•They agreed to closely engage in the region in the context of India's Indo-Pacific Ocean's Initiative and the EU's new strategy on the Indo-Pacific.

Space

India and EU leaders also agreed to continue their cooperation on space and transport and enable digital transformation to create quality jobs and advance cooperation and mobility on research and innovation.

On Human Rights & Gender Equality

The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to protecting and promoting all human rights including women empowerment and gender equality. 

They recognised the need to strengthen specific mechanisms for the promotion of human rights and the role of national human rights institutions, civil society actors and journalists.

Non-proliferation and Disarmament

The leaders also emphasized strengthening of India-EU cooperation on international security, including areas such as non-proliferation and disarmament and countering radicalism, terrorism and violent extremism and maritime security, cyber and other threats through their regular consultations.

India-EU Business Roundtable

•An India-EU Business Roundtable was also organised to highlight the avenues for cooperation in climate, digital and healthcare.

•A finance contract worth Euro 150 million was signed for the Pune Metro Rail Project by the Union Finance Ministry and European Investment Bank.

Background 

The last India-EU summit was held virtually on July 15, 2020. During the summit, the Indian and EU leaders had adopted a five-year roadmap for the EU-India Strategic Partnership and a joint declaration on resource efficiency and circular economy. 

The current summit has set a significant milestone by providing a new direction to the Strategic Partnership and giving a fresh impetus for implementing the ambitious India-EU Roadmap 2025 that was adopted last year.

About the European Union 

•The European Union (EU) bloc comprises 27 nations of Europe. The bloc was formed in the aftermath of World War II. 

•The first batch of countries that joined the bloc in 1957 includes France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands. 

•Three more countries including the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland joined in 1973, followed by Greece in 1981. 

•Spain and Portugal joined in 1986 and Finland, Austria and Sweden joined in 1995. 

•Nine more countries were added in 2004 and two more in 2007. Croatia was the last country to join the bloc in 2013, taking the total number of EU members to 28. 

•However, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, which reduces the total number of EU members to 27. 

 

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