India, EU to upgrade trade and investment relations

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New Delhi, Nov 29: India and the European Union will make a comprehensive review of the Joint Action Plan and discuss further development on the ambitious Trade and Investment Agreement at the eighth India-EU Summit here tomorrow.

An Agreement for Scientific and Technological Cooperation and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Multi-Annual Indicative Programme for 2007-2010 in development cooperation will be signed between the two sides during the summit, an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said here today.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will lead the Indian side at the talks. He will be assisted by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath and National Security Advisor M K Narayanan.

The EU will be represented by Mr Jose Sócrates, Prime Minister of Portugal, in his capacity as President of the European Council. He will be assisted by by the President of the European Commission, Mr Jose Manuel Barroso, European Commissioner for Trade Mr Peter Mandelson and Mr Joao Gomes Cravinho, Portuguese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

The Summit will make a comprehensive review of trade and investment cooperation, the Strategic Partnership and projects for the future. Climate change, S and T cooperation, energy and regional and international developments will also come up for discussion.

Although bilateral trade has increased, it has not reached its full potential yet and both sides have agreed to launch negotiations for a very broad Trade and Investment Agreement. Trade flows are more than one billion Euros per week. ''It (the Summit) would start a new chapter in Trade and Investment relations between India and the EU, EU officials said here.

Asked when would the Trade and Investment Agreement be finalised, the officials refused to give a time-frame for such an ''ambitious agreement.'' ''We don't know when...we are ready to go as fast... there is already high-level of engagement on the issue.'' In S and T, individual countries have many ambitious projects and agreements with India.

The Summit takes place under the Portuguese Presidency of the EU.

''The Summit is part of India"s ongoing dialogue with the EU for discussions on areas of mutual interest and to build on the strategic partnership with them. The member states of the EU are important to India individually as well as collectively,'' the spokesman said.

The EU 27 is an important trade, technology and investment partner for India. The EU is also home to a large Indian diaspora.

The 6th Summit which was held at New Delhi in 2005, saw the adoption of an ambitious and comprehensive India-EU Joint Action Plan (JAP) to implement the strategic partnership launched at the fifth Summit at The Hague in November 2004.

The 7th Summit held in Helsinki in 2006 accepted the recommendation of the High Level Trade Group, set up under the Joint Action Plan, to launch negotiations on a broad based Trade and Investment Agreement.

Negotiations for an India-EU broad based Trade and Investment Agreement have since started and are taking pace in a constructive manner. The second round took place in New Delhi in October 2007.

The EU is India"s largest trading partner. Bilateral trade has steadily grown between 2001 and 2006 at over 10 per cent on an average and crossed 46 billion in 2006.

This includes Indian exports worth 22.3 billion US Dollars and imports of about 24 billion. The EU also attended the 14th SAARC Summit held in New Delhi in April this year for the first time as an Observer.

UNI

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