India committed to broad-based trade agreement with EU: Prez

India committed to broad-based trade agreement with EU: Prez
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ATHENS: India is committed to a broad-based trade and investment agreement with the EU to be achieved in a generous spirit of mutual accommodation and of pragmatism, President Ram Nath Kovind said on Tuesday.

The 28-member European Union is among India’s largest trading partners.

Kovind, who arrived in Greece on Saturday on the first leg of his three-nation tour, said that the EU is a critical source of investment and technology, especially for sustainability programmes.

Indian companies are significant investors in the EU, in industries as far apart as pharmaceuticals and automobile components, he said.

“India remains committed to an India-EU Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), to be achieved in a generous spirit of mutual accommodation and of pragmatism,” he told a gathering of diplomats, policymakers and academics during his address on the subject ‘India and Europe in a Changing World’.

The event was organised by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy – a leading foreign policy think-tank in Greece and Europe.

The negotiations for the BTIA have been held up since May 2013 and both the sides are yet to bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues.

Since June 2007, both the sides have completed 16 rounds of talks and five stock-taking meetings on the proposed pact.

The negotiations have witnessed many hurdles with both sides having major differences on key issues like intellectual property rights, duty cut in automobile and spirits and liberal visa regime.

The two sides have to iron out differences related to movement of professionals.

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 the EU to grant it data secure nation status. The country is among the nations not considered as data secure by the EU. The matter is crucial as it will have a bearing on Indian IT companies wanting market access to the countries in the bloc.

Earlier, addressing the India – Greek Business Forum meeting, Kovind said that India-Greek bilateral trade at USD 530 million is way below its potential.

“With some efforts this can easily be made to cross USD 1 billion in the next few years and India is keen to take lead in this effort,” he said.

The President said that there are clear complementarities between the Indian and Greek economies.

He asked Greek shipping, agriculture, food processing, tourism, infrastructure, technology, defence and start-up companies to look at investment and technology tie-up openings in India.

He said that there are lucrative opportunities for the Greek Shipping Industry in India’s ambitious Sagarmala project.

The Sagarmala programme was launched under the port-led growth model and aims to invest Rs 8 lakh crore to create new mega-ports, modernise existing facilities and also have special economic zones adjoining the port.

Kovind also mntioned the opportunities to collaborate in defence manufacturing, pharma, tourism, real-estate, entertainment, infrastructure and technology sectors as well.

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