Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured European Council President Herman Von Rompuy that negotiations with the European Union on a trade agreement will not suffer because of a lack of “political will” in India.
India and EU have held 15 rounds of negotiations since 2007 on the Broadbased Trade and Investment Agreement (BITA) but have been unable to seal the deal.
During their meeting in Brisbane Friday, Von Rompuy told Modi that talks on BITA have stalled for over a year due to lack of political will in India. “He asked the Prime Minister to address this and intensify talks now so that the shared interests of India and the EU can be pushed further,” said an official from India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
To this, the official added, Prime Minister Modi replied: “There is a new wind of change. Test it for yourself.”
Stressing that his government aimed to take India up several notches in ease of doing business, Modi pointed out that during the last six months, it had allowed 100 per cent FDI in railways and 49 per cent FDI in defence.
As far was BITA is concerned, Modi said, India had its own concerns on certain aspects which need to be addressed and added that it was not possible to accommodate EU’s interests alone. The European Council President said the EU appreciated India’s concerns, but reiterated that a strong political could help resolve these issues.
The 28-member EU is India’s largest trading partner, accounting for 15 per cent of India’s total trade in goods and services. For the EU, India is the tenth largest trading partner. In 2011-12, India-EU trade stood at about $110 billion.
According to Indian government officials, India’s position is well-known. “We want greater market access for our services. And the EU is keen India slashes high duties on automobile imports from European countries,” the official said.
The EU has also been pushing for further cuts in duties of imported spirits and diary products. India wants a good deal on services, more flexibility in the movement of Indian professionals, smoother cross-border flow of IT and ITeS, and data secure status.
At an earlier bilateral meeting, UK Prime Minister David Cameron had also sought an early conclusion to the BITA talks. While Cameron pointed out that the agreement had been stuck for seven years, Modi said India would take a pragmatic view keeping in mind its interests.