External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday said that a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and European Union (EU) would be a game-changer. He said that the EU is one of the largest trade partners for India. “We expect the India-EU FTA will be a game-changer for our relationship. We look forward to a mutually beneficial conclusion to the negotiation process within a reasonably short span of time,” Jaishankar further said.
Speaking at an event at the Confederation of Indian Industry, Jaishankar emphasized that Europe and India can strengthen each other’s strategic autonomy by cooperating on critical technologies, reducing dependencies, and ensuring supply-chain restructuring.
“Our bilateral trade was in excess of USD 115 billion in the financial year 2021-22, which is the highest ever. With the UK and other non-EU countries added, I believe that number is even greater,” he said.
India and the European Union restarted negotiations for the long-pending trade and investment agreement in June last year after a gap of over eight years. The negotiations for the proposed agreement have faced significant obstacles as both sides have had major differences on crucial issues. Jaishankar noted that India’s new approach to trade agreements focuses on issues of non-tariff and behind-the-border barriers, quality standards, and related benchmarks.
According to Jaishankar, with like-minded partners, India has demonstrated a fast-track change in its FTA negotiation processes in recent years, with FTAs with the UAE and Australia concluded in record time. He also mentioned that behind-the-border barriers are non-tariff discriminatory trade barriers within a country.
Jaishankar highlighted that the recently unveiled Trade and Technology Council (TTC) will provide the structure and strategic guidance to the partnership between the two sides. The TTC is expected to facilitate the exchange of critical technologies, including artificial intelligence, quantum computing, semiconductors, and cyber security.
He added that India’s relationship with Europe is stronger and deeper than ever before and that the business communities of India and Europe have a large stake and an enabling role in this transformation.