Progress has been made on the resumption of the India-EU free trade agreement negotiations and the formal talks would start this month, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday.
Addressing the Annual Meeting of Romanian Diplomacy, Jaishankar stressed that the strategic convergence between India and the EU is reflected in their positions on key regional and global issues, including on Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific.
There was a landmark summit this May between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the 27 leaders of the European Union in Portugal and one of its important outcomes is the resumption of FTA negotiations that have remained stalled since 2013 from the time of the previous government, he said.
“Not just that there has already been some progress in that regard and actually the formal talks start this month,” Jaishankar said.
India and the European Union had announced in May the resumption of talks for a free trade agreement, eight years after its suspension, and agreed to launch negotiations for two key pacts on investment protection and geographical indications.
“We have also agreed to conclude early an investment agreement, and one on geographical indicators. The India-EU connectivity partnership is also important for its bilateral implications, its quality connotations and its third country possibilities,” Jaishankar said.
Asserting that India’s economic weight and political influence has already grown substantially, he pointed out that India is a member of the G20, a non-permanent member of the Security Council, of the EAS, BRICS, SCO, QUAD, SAARC, BIMSTEC and IORA .
“So there is a long list out there. In our own vicinity, the Neighborhood-first policy pursued since 2014 has strengthened connectivity, contacts, and commerce. India’s growth is a tide lifting the larger region in the quest for prosperity,” he said.
Jaishankar said that towards South East Asia and beyond, the ‘Act East’ policy has added security, connectivity in greater societal context to a robust economic partnership.
This has now further developed into what has become known as an Indo-Pacific Vision that contemplates opportunities much more seamlessly, he said.
“To the west, a link-West outlook has actually transformed our ties with the Gulf states and fashioned a strategic construct that goes beyond energy, trade and the diaspora. To the South, the ‘SAGAR Maritime initiative’ has taken an integrated view of cooperation with various islands, and littoral states, with Africa an ambitious development partnership and a larger footprint,” Jaishankar said.
“I’m sure that this will be duly noted by Romanian diplomats. Between our national and EU engagements, there is every reason to be optimistic about our continued cooperation,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly made all nations of the world much more aware of external risks and vulnerabilities and it has raised questions about the centralised aspects of globalisation, and highlighted the importance of trust and transparency, Jaishankar said.
An issue that has emerged strongly on the global agenda, is the requirement for resilient and reliable supply chains, he noted.
India and Romania have a significant convergence in our outlook of the world and of its contemporary challenges, the external affairs minister asserted.
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