Belgium backs India for NSG, hopeful of India-EU trade pact (Lead)

August 8th, 2012 - 10:21 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 8 (IANS) Backing India’s membership of the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Belgium Wednesday agreed to cooperate with this country in the field of nuclear research and hoped India and the European Union should be able to seal a free trade agreement by early next year.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders held talks here that covered a wide gamut of bilateral issues, including steps to intensify trade and investment and cooperation in the energy sector.

They also discussed a cluster of global issues, including UN reforms, the global financial crisis, climate change, nuclear energy and the Eurozone recession.

During the talks, Reynders conveyed Belgium’s support for India’s membership of the NSG, an elite club of 46 nations that controls the global trade in nuclear equipment and energy.

The two sides also discussed closer collaboration in nuclear research, including atomic medicine, a niche area in which Belgium possesses know-how and expertise.

Reynders also assured India that it was monitoring the activities of organisations like the Kashmir Centre, an outfit allegedly funded by Pakistan’s ISI, in Brussels and stressed that it will take action if it was found to be working against India.

Stepping up trade and investment between India and the EU and India-Belgium trade figured prominently in the discussions.

“With India, we have made progress in certain areas like in the field of goods. There are more difficulties in services and we are trying to solve it,” Reynders said at a joint press conference with Krishna.

He said both sides were constantly talking to each other and many meetings were scheduled to hasten the process towards signing the FTA. He hoped that both sides would soon be able to sign it by the next India-EU summit in February 2013.

Krishna also voiced optimism that the pact would be signed soon as the negotiations have made “considerable progress”. He stressed that it will be “mutually beneficial.”

India and the EU have been negotiating a Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) for several years to reduce tariffs on goods and liberalise services and investments.

The upward trajectory of the India-Belgium trade has defied the Eurozone recession to touch 13 billion euro.

“Belgium has now emerged as the second largest trading partner in the goods sector within the European Union,” said Krishna. “In addition, our interest to collaborate in newer areas, particularly in infrastructure and energy sector, including port development, renewable energy, both solar and wind power, has also been conveyed,” he added.

Alluding to substantial investments made by several Indian companies in the IT and software sector, Krishna said Belgium has the potential to emerge as a hub for their European operations.

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