India-EU summit to push for free trade zone

29 Nov 2007


Mumbai: Leaders of the European Union and India will kick off talks in New Delhi on Friday to push forward plans for a free trade zone, and further boost a burgeoning relationship between the two.

The eighth India-EU summit will also seek to increase mutual investments and address issues of common concern such as climate change, public-private partnership, and infrastructure and logistics, officials said.

With weekly volume of trade between India and the EU topping one billion euros ($1.5 billion), the EU was seeking "fast" agreement on a free trade deal with India, European Commission delegation chief Daniele Smadja told a news conference.

Annual trade volume between India and the EU has reached 47 billion euros, with services accounting for 10 billion euros, but there is still potential, she said ahead of the India-EU summit.
"We believe that a trade and investment agreement would boost in a remarkable way investments and trade. We are ready to go as fast as the both sides wish to," she said.

"We are negotiating a free trade agreement and negotiations are going very well. We hope during this summit to bring impetus to these
negotiations," added Portuguese ambassador Luis Filipe Castro Mendes.

EU foreign ministers in April this year agreed to start free trade talks with India. But neither side was hopeful an agreement would be feasible.

The EU is already India''s largest trading partner, and a major source
of investment. Last year the 27 EU nations invested 1.6 billion euros
in India.

The European Union is increasingly looking at the massive Asian markets for growth potential of Asian markets.

During an EU-China summit in Beijing, European leaders have also put pressure on Chinese authorities to open up its booming markets and free exchange rate.

At the Delhi summit the EU and Indian leaders will also discuss
climate change and the environment, airing their views ahead of
December''s conference in Bali aimed at forging a replacement for the
Kyoto Protocol.

The two sides are also expected to announce the renewal of a science and technology cooperation agreement and move towards coordinated research projects.

Regional issues like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar would also be discussed along with non-proliferation and counter-terrorism.

The official summit will be preceded in New Delhi on Thursday by an
EU-India business summit.

Besides the Government of India and the EU Secretariat, the summit is being organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson and India''s commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath will jointly preside over the summit.

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