‘An influential voice’: EU envoy hails India’s G20 Presidency

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The envoy said that the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and the European Union is a broad, ambitious, and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement and the European Union is determined to pursue its objective as it would be beneficial to both sides, reports Ayushi Agarwal

The fourth round of talks on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and the European Union is expected around March this year in Europe, the European Union Ambassador to India, Ugo Astuto said on Friday. The envoy said that it is a broad, ambitious, and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement and the European Union is determined to pursue its objective as it would be beneficial to both sides.

“Past a few years ago the relationship, the strategic partnership has been gaining considerable momentum. Let me mark here, in particular, the summit in Porto in 2021, where the decision was taken to relaunch negotiation for Free Trade Agreement, as well as negotiation, for an Investment Protection Agreement on Geographical indication. I think that was a very significant Landmark”, he said.

“We have had three rounds of negotiations. The fourth one is expected around March in Europe. The last one was here in Delhi. The decision to restart the FTA was a unanimous decision taken by all the 27 EU leaders and together with Prime Minister Modi at the Porto Summit. So, we have a very strong political mandate given by our political leadership, he added.

Calling the discussions ‘constructive’ the envoy added that the Free Trade Agreement is broad, ambitious and comprehensive.

Ugo Astuto at the Jaipur Literature Festival.

“The discussions taking place have been constructive, but we should not hide that it is a very complex negotiation. It’s a broad, ambitious, and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement and obviously, it’s a complex endeavour but we are determined to pursue its objective, as we believe it would be beneficial to both sides”, he said.

Last June, India and the EU formally relaunched negotiations toward a free trade agreement, after nearly a decades-long pause in talks.

Talking about India’s G20 Presidency at a time when there is global turmoil due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the envoy called India an ‘influential voice’ and said that India in its G20 Presidency has presented a very ambitious agenda of a number of items of great interest to all participants and it will indeed manage to drive the group towards fruitful discussions.

“India is a very influential voice. At the same time, unfortunately, we are not living in a business-as-usual situation. Very soon it is going to be one year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a blatant violation of international law. So, what the European Union is trying to do is to isolate the Russian leadership and impose sanctions as it can affect the ability of the Kremlin to continue its military operation,” Astuto said.

Stressing upon the price cap imposed on Russia, the envoy said that Europe has reduced its dependency drastically on Russian fossil fuel oil and gas and the price cap is meant to avoid the spike in the prices and India will also be in a position to benefit from this newfound stability.

“Russia has been trying to weaponize fossil fuels and to blackmail Europe. It has failed. Europe has reduced drastically its dependency on Russian fossil fuels be it oil and gas. When it comes to seaborne Russian oil as European Union at the G7 has an embargo in place. So, we are not importing longer Russian seaborne oil. But we have also worked together with our partners at the G7 to set up a Price cap. The price cap is meant to avoid spikes in prices. Because we have seen the fluctuation and the sudden rise in the prices of fuel of oil. So, the price cap is meant to inject stability into the market despite efforts from Russia to create chaos, irrespective of the consequences. I think it’s working and as we see the price of oil stabilise and I think India will also be in a position to benefit from this new found stability. Thanks to the Price Cap,” he said.

He also spoke on Indo-Pacific and said that India and the European Union have a similar vision and we want the region to be stable and prosperous.

“India and the European Union also share a remarkably similar vision for the indo-pacific. We want the region to be stable and prosperous and the European Union is ready to contribute to this prosperity. Let me note here, for instance, the global Gateway initiative, and the EU Initiative for sustainable infrastructure. I think these are initiatives which are also relevant for the indo-pacific and for South Asia when we try to advocate an infrastructure which is developing, sustainable and transparent. sustainable in terms of social sustainability. So, I think we do have a really broad scope of cooperation before us,” Astuto said.

India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal meets with Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission executive vice-president and Trade Commissioner.

Hailing India’s growth as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, the envoy said that the economic relationship between the European Union and India can grow even faster while the EU is the third largest trade partner of India.

“I have read a recent report by the World Bank, where by India is going to be the fastest growing among the large economies in the world. I think this is a testimony to the strong fundamentals of the Indian economy. Trade and investment between the European Union and India are already at a considerably significant level.”

“To European Union, it is the third largest trading partner of India, but we think that India and the EU can do better and that’s the reason why we have launched our negotiations for a free trade agreement, but I definitely believe that the economic relationship between the European Union and India can grow even faster. It’s also underpinned by a very strong people-to-people relationship”, the Ambassador of the European Union to India, Ugo Astuto said. (ANI)

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