Economic Ties, Multilateralism expected focus of India-EU summit

PTI

The 15th summit between India and the European Union will be held via video conference today. India and the European Union are expected to deliberate extensively on ways to expand overall economic engagement, offset adverse impact of the coronavirus pandemic and strengthen multilateralism in their online summit talks, official sources said.

In the summit, the two sides are also expected to delve into finding a way forward to resume talks on the long-pending free trade agreement which is known as EU-India Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), they said.

The Indian delegation will be led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi while the European side will be headed by President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

Ahead of the India-EU Summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the dialogue will further strengthen New Delhi’s economic as well as cultural linkages with Europe.

After 13 years of negotiations, India and the European Union on Tuesday sealed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. 

The deal came through a day ahead of their virtual summit which is aimed at further broadbasing ties on a range of areas including trade, investment and defence. 

“Will take part in the India-EU Summit at 4:30 PM today. I am confident this Summit will further strengthen our economic as well as cultural linkages with Europe,” the prime minister tweeted.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will virtually address the UN on Friday at the High-Level Segment of the ECOSOC, his first since India was overwhelmingly elected as a non-permanent member of the powerful Security Council last month.

PM Modi will deliver the keynote address at the Valedictory of the High-Level Segment of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on July 17.

India last month was overwhelmingly elected as a non-permanent member of the powerful UN Security Council on Wednesday for a two-year term.

India, the endorsed candidate from the Asia-Pacific States, won 184 votes out of the 192 ballots cast in the elections for the five non-permanent seats of the Security Council.

During the address, PM Modi will be joined by Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will also address the segment.

The theme of this year’s High-Level Segment is Multilateralism after COVID19: What kind of UN do we need at the 75th anniversary’.

Held on an annual basis, the High-level Segment represents the culmination of the ECOSOC’s annual cycle of work and convenes a diverse group of high-level representatives from Government, the private sector, civil society and academia.

Against the backdrop of a changing international environment and the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, the session will focus on critical forces shaping the course of multilateralism and explore ways to bolster the multilateral agenda through strong multilateral leadership, effective international institutions, a broadening of participation and an enhanced focus on global public goods, the Permanent Mission of India to the UN said in a statement.

The event, being held on the eve of the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the UN, assumes special significance as it will be the first opportunity for Modi to address the broader UN membership since India overwhelmingly won the Security Council election on June 17.

This year’s theme also resonates with India’s priority for its Security Council tenure in which New Delhi has called for reformed multilateralism in a post-COVID-19 world.

PM Modi had earlier delivered the keynote address virtually at the 70th anniversary of the ECOSOC in January 2016. India has had a long tradition of close association with the ECOSOC. The inaugural Presidency of the ECOSOC in 1946 was held by Sir Ramaswami Mudaliar of India.

The UN Charter established the ECOSOC in 1945 as one of the six main organs of the United Nations and is mandated to offer direction to, and undertake the coordination of, the economic, social, and cultural activities of the United Nations, with responsibility for advancing international economic and social cooperation and development.

PM Modi was scheduled to visit Brussels in March for the summit. But his visit was cancelled in view of the coronavirus outbreak.

The 27-nation EU is a strategically important region for India. The EU as a whole was India’s largest trading partner in 2018.

India’s bilateral trade with the EU in 2018-19 stood at USD 115.6 billion with exports valued at USD 57.17 billion and imports worth USD 58.42 billion.

The defence and security cooperation between the two sides is also on an upswing.

The sources said the summit will aim to further advance strategic engagement with a focus on expanding economic ties, strengthening multilateralism to effectively deal with global challenges and confronting adverse impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

It has been felt that there was a lack of leadership for a coordinated approach to effectively deal with the pandemic and the two sides are expected to deliberate on having a common approach in finding a solution to it, the sources said.

Asked whether the issue of origin of the coronavirus may figure in the talks, the sources said there has been a lot of interest in Europe in knowing about it as well as on the initial response system.

On the FTA, the sources said, the summit will be critical in finding a way forward and that the new leadership of the 27-member bloc has shown great interest in India.

They said the two sides are expected to find a meeting ground on the long-pending issue.

The BTIA talks have been stalled since May 2013, when both sides failed to bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues, including data security status for the IT sector.

Launched in June 2007, negotiations for the proposed agreement have witnessed many hurdles as both sides have major differences on crucial issues.

Besides demanding significant duty cuts in automobiles, the EU wants tax reduction on wines, spirits and dairy products, and a strong intellectual property regime.

On the other hand, India is asking that it be granted data secure nation status by the EU. The country is among the nations not considered as data secure by the EU.

There has been a renewed interest in the FTA from both sides after India pulled out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

India’s bilateral investment protection treaties with individual European countries have lapsed in the last few years. The EU wanted the pacts to continue until they are replaced by the FTA which will have provisions for investment protection.

Asked about the motion on India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in European Parliament earlier this year, the sources said the EU has already clarified that the parliamentary activities do not reflect the views of the bloc.