EU - INDIA

European Union, India to resume long-suspended trade talks

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. © Dibyangshu Sarkar, AFP

The European Union and India will agree to restart long-stalled trade talks at a leaders' summit on Saturday, an EU official said, as tensions with China, and the fallout from Brexit, spur closer cooperation.  

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Almost eight years after the suspension of the free trade talks, India and the EU are expected to agree to a resumption at the weekend summit.

This opens the way to a possible free trade agreement between the two sides, according to an official statement from Brussels.

Momentum has been growing for closer ties between Europe's 27-nation bloc and the world's largest democracy in the face of the rising commercial and military might of Beijing.

Trade talks between the two sides were halted in 2013 after getting stuck on issues including cutting tariffs, data protection, patent security, and access for Indian workers to Europe.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to EU chief Ursula von der Leyen on Monday about reviving the trade talks.

The pair will be joined by European Council President Charles Michel and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the virtual meeting. Michel will also talk to Modi before the Saturday summit.

'Ambitious, comprehensive, beneficial'

Speaking at a pre-summit press briefing, an EU official said Brussels was hoping to reach "an ambitious, comprehensive and mutually beneficial agreement" with India -- but it remains to be seen if New Delhi will ease up on its traditionally protectionist approach.

"We believe that this is one of the areas of cooperation between EU and India where the potential gain, both economically but also strategically, is the greatest," the EU official said.

India currently exports 15 percent of its overseas sales to EU member states.

The European bloc's push to resume negotiations comes as former EU member Britain is also making a play to bolster its trade ties with India.

The British government said Tuesday it would start formal free trade talks with India later this year after the two sides agreed an initial package to boost bilateral trade and investment.

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