Summit is fresh impetus to EU-India FTA talks: Juncker

New Delhi: The latest India-European Union (EU) summit of leaders has given fresh impetus to the long drawn out negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) and increased hopes of concluding a deal, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Friday.

“Today’s (Friday) summit has given fresh impetus to the talks on a BTIA (Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement), and I hope the negotiations resume and move towards conclusion,” Juncker said in his address at the EU-India Business Forum here.

The European Commission President is on a visit to India as the head of a delegation that includes European Council President Donald Tusk. They held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 14th India-EU summit here earlier on Friday.

“We want to conclude the FTA between India and the EU once all the conditions are met… by conditions I mean all the necessary circumstances. The European Union doesn’t want to dictate conditions,” Juncker said.

Signing of an EU-India BTIA, or a free trade agreement, has been hanging fire for 11 years now despite 16 rounds of negotiations.

Juncker also told the gathering that EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Indian Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu are due to meet “in three days time” to resume talks on the bilateral FTA.

The last round of the FTA talks, started in 2008, was held in May 2013 without any breakthroughs owing to EU concerns on high tariffs on cars and wines, while India’s concerns are in the area of services.

Declaring that the EU and India are strategic allies and “natural partners” with shared values of democracy and the rule of law, Juncker said signing of the FTA “would be the best way forward.”

Pointing out that the EU was India’s largest trading partner accounting for 13 per cent of India’s total trade, he invited Indian companies to invest in Europe.

“Europe is the place to do business, and will remain so even after Brexit (British exit from the EU) in March 2019,” he said.

“The European economy will create new opportunities for Indian business also in the future,” he added.

The India-EU bilateral trade is almost evenly balanced at present and is annually worth a little above $100 billion.

At the business forum, European Investment Bank (EIB) Vice President Andrew McDowell announced signing of a finance contract for the second phase of the Bangalore Metro Rail Project for 300 million euros out of total EIB loan of 500 million euros.

He also confirmed plans to provide a record 800 million euros for renewable energy investment across India.