The EU-India Business Roundtable took place virtually in Porto to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the areas of climate, digital and healthcare and to support increased trade and investment. The business roundtable was organised in the margins of the EU-India Summit and with the support of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Business strongly welcomed the step of Heads of State and Government to revive trade negotiations. A comprehensive trade and investment agreement would help in further deepening EU-India bilateral trade and investment ties.
BusinessEurope Director General Markus J. Beyrer said: “Today’s relaunch of the negotiations of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is an essential step forward for both our economies. India and the EU will both profit from strengthening bilateral cooperation in the areas of climate, digital and healthcare, and from increased trade and investment. The EU is India’s largest trading partner with about 11 percent of its total trade, worth around €80 billion, and the EU is India’s top foreign investor. Both sides should use this window of opportunity, based on our shared values, commitment to rules-based multilateralism, and benefit from mutual economic opportunities.”
Confederation of Indian Industry Director General Chandrajit Banerjee said: “Indian industry, on its part, welcomes the announcement of resumption of formal negotiations on the India-EU trade deal at the India – EU Summit, and is ready to support the negotiations in any way possible. A pact on trade should benefit the EU with better access to a huge and rapidly growing market as well as help India access technology which could qualitatively upgrade the Indian economy.”
President of CIP António Saraiva said: “Today, at the EU-India Business Roundtable, we are bringing together the European and Indian representatives of the private sector, with the aim of boosting economic relations and building a platform of cooperation and business opportunities between our entrepreneurs. We have set an ambitious agenda and we wish not only to bring our businessman closer together, but to shape the EU-India Economic agenda in its many topics, so that companies can become important drivers for a successful rapprochement between the two economic blocks. We believe the MoU we have signed today with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) will contribute to untap the potential of present economic bilateral relations between Portugal and India.”
Reinhard Bütikofer, foreign policy coordinator of the Greens / EFA group in the European Parliament, commented:“The strategic partnership between India and the EU is already advanced in years. But so far it had been more of an imagination than a reality. Some pundits had even talked of a “charade of a strategic partnership”.
“New pressures which either side has been experiencing more recently are now beginning to force the EU and India to take this partnership more seriously. It is good that both sides want to overcome differences regarding the long-blocked issue of trade. It is even better that a connectivity partnership has been concluded in a relatively short time. “Reinhard Bütikofer
“But if the EU would refuse to hear India’s call – which US President Biden has joined – that TRIPS regulations have to be pushed aside to enhance the production of vaccines, the EU would present itself as not very consistent. You cannot shape geopolitical partnerships as a petty shopkeeper.”
“It is highly valuable that Portugal, as the EU Council Presidency, invests so heavily in EU-India relations. But couldn’t Berlin, for its part, now take a big step forward and work to end the TRIPS blockade, as we Greens have long been calling for?”
“One cannot expect that EU-India relations will not present any problems in the future. Relevant human rights concerns which the European Parliament voiced have displeased the Indian side. But what brings us together is much stronger than what divides us. Incidentally, whoever doesn’t want to end up economically dependent on China should pay increased attention to the prospect of stronger economic relations with India. Let’s safely keep the China investment agreement CAI in the freezer, but let’s get the negotiations with India out of it.”
In Porto, business raised hopes that the positive momentum will be maintained, and the level of ambition remains high throughout the FTA negotiations. Europe and India have strong historic and economic ties and a tradition of close cooperation and mutual support. This dates back many centuries, and this also counts in challenging times of a Covid-crisis.