EU pushes for India trade pact ahead of summit

November 4th, 2009 - 8:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Nov 4 (IANS) Ahead of the India-EU summit this week, a European diplomat Wednesday called for fresh impetus to the stalled talks on a trade pact and stressed that it was time “to jump into the cold water of give and take” to conclude the deal.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will Friday hold delegation-level talks at a day-long summit with EU leaders, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and chairman of the Swedish presidency of the EU and president of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso.

The two sides will focus on imparting renewed momentum to a proposed free trade pact and expand cooperation in areas ranging from counter-terrorism and the global financial crisis to energy security and climate change.

“An agreement on civil nuclear energy, focusing on India’s participation in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor [ITER] project is expected to be signed,” Daniele Smadja, head of the European Commission’s delegation to India, told reporters here ahead of the annual summit.

The ITER project on fusion energy is said to be the costliest experiment of its kind pegged at 10 billion euros with the first fusion reactor expected to be operational in Cadarche, France by 2016.

The 10th summit of India and the 27-nation European Union is being monitored closely for the direction it can provide to the stalled trade talks.

“We hope an agreement on trade and investment will be concluded soon. The summit will give it an impetus. We are looking at our leaders to give inspiration and momentum,” Smadja said while describing the negotiations as “complex.”

“We have to jump into the cold water of give and take. We have to get into the exchange of concessions. We still have very difficult negotiations before us,” she said.

“It’s always a difficult process. There are sentiments on both sides and we have to take into account conflicting constituencies,” she said while admitting that there are “social issues” both sides have to address without prejudice.

The two sides launched negotiations in 2007 for a broad-based trade and investment pact, including a free trade agreement (FTA), but have failed to make much headway due to differences over intellectual property rights and EU’s negotiating stance to link trade with climate and other non-tariff issues like child labour.

India has seen this as a ploy of the developed countries to undercut its competitiveness.

The political summit will be preceded by a business conclave that will bring top business leaders from the two sides to discuss issues relating to the global financial meltdown and ways to expand two-way trade and investment that is currently estimated to be 61 billion euros.

With less than a month to go before the UN summit on climate change in Copenhagen, climate change and energy issues will be among more important issues on the agenda, the EU envoy said.

The EU summit last week agreed that rich countries should give developing nations up to 50 billion euros a year by 2020 to help them combat climate change, but did not specify how much it was willing to contribute, a position that has not gone down well with India, which advocates deeper carbon emission cuts for developed countries.

Calling for greater counter-terror cooperation between India and the EU, the envoy said the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan will figure in discussions. Other regional issues like Sri Lanka and the peace process in the Middle East are also expected to crop up in talks, she said.

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