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India committed to conclude trade, investment protection pacts together at early date: Goyal

·3-min read

New Delhi, May 8 (PTI) India is committed to concluding negotiations for the proposed free trade agreement and investment protection pact with European Union (EU) together at an early date, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said on Saturday.

The proposed free trade agreement, officially dubbed as Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) between the two sides has been stalled since May 2013 as both sides are yet to iron out differences over several issues.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of EU–India Business Roundtable, Goyal said that both the regions should look at a comprehensive dialogue so that they can agree on a comprehensive free trade agreement covering all the tracks of trade in goods, services and investment protection.

He expressed confidence that this should provide a significant and much-needed impetus to economic engagement of both the sides.

This will also benefit both the sides immensely and bring strategic ties to the next level, he said.

India and the European Union on Saturday announced the resumption of talks for a free trade agreement, eight years after its suspension, and agreed to launch negotiations for two key pacts on investment protection and geographical indications.

These decisions were taken at a virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and leaders of 27 member nations of the bloc during which the two sides also unveiled an ambitious connectivity partnership.

'These will be separate agreements and negotiated in a parallel track simultaneously. We are also committed to conclude them together at an early date. I say this because I believe that investments and trade go hand in hand and just like you have significant interest in the investment agreement...India's interest lies in greater market access in Europe for our goods, and services,' Goyal said.

The minister also said that investments are protected in India and the country has a strong judiciary and respect for rule of law, transparency in all decision making, political stability, and IPR (intellectual property rights) protection.

There is no compulsion for any company to do technology transfer in India, he informed.

'We are actively working towards improvement in our ease of doing business rankings, in our competitiveness, de-bureaucratisation systems and making procedures simpler, opening up newer sectors for more FDI, strengthening regulatory practices,' he said.

Talking about Aatmanirbhar Bharat, Goyal said the campaign does not mean being protectionist and closing doors to the world.

'On the contrary, India wishes to open its doors wider and warmly welcomes businesses from across the world,' he said, adding businesses can trust India to provide a multitude of investment and manufacturing opportunities.

On Covid-19 pandemic, the minister said the government is currently ramping up vaccine production so that 'we can expand our vaccination coverage speedily'.

He added that India can become a natural manufacturing base to make the products from European innovation, competitive in the world.

'Our trade is balanced and complementary. The basket of traded goods is highly diverse and technologically advanced,' he said.

Speaking at the function, Prime Minister of Portugal António Costa too said that the decision to resume negotiations for a free trade pact 'is a very important sign' because the negotiations had been suspended since 2013.

'Today India and the EU joint statement paves the way to achieve these goals. It gives renewed political impetus to our relationship,' he said.

He added that a more ambitious relationship between India and the EU will certainly have a positive impact on global patterns of trade, and investments.

About 6,000 European companies have presence in Indian markets, he said adding 'it is now the time to realise the full potential of our economies...'.

India's exports to EU member countries stood at about USD 54 billion in 2019-20, while imports aggregated at USD 52 billion. The main exports from India to EU include engineering goods, ready made garments, aircraft, made-ups of textiles, precious stones, pharmaceuticals and iron and steel, while imports include industrial machinery, chemicals, and diamonds. PTI RR MR MR