UN reforms, trade ties on PM’s agenda to Europe

December 8th, 2010 - 5:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Dec 8 (IANS) Reforms in the United Nations Security Council and expanding trade ties top the agenda of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s two-nation European tour to Belgium and Germany from Thursday.

Manmohan Singh will arrive in Brussels Thursday night for the 11th India-EU summit.

The Friday summit, earlier scheduled for October, is expected to give a fillip to the trade ties between India and the 27-nation economic bloc, even as a key free trade agreement (FTA) between the two sides remains inconclusive due to protracted negotiations over some problem areas.

The free trade accord that was supposed to have been finalised before the 11th India-EU summit has the potential to increase the business volume between India and EU to 100 billion euros (nearly six trillion rupees).

EU is the largest trading partner of India with bilateral trade last year touching 70 billion euros.

Vivket Katju, secretary (west) in the ministry of external affairs, said the bloc is an “important trading partner of India and also a significant source of investment”.

The negotiations to finalise the pact “are going well”, Katju told reporters ahead of the visit.

“There has been a fairly regular and good contact between the negotiators. Some estimates indicate that the level of bilateral trade well might go up to 100 billion euros.”

Asked about the problem areas obstructing the finalisation of the deal, the official said: “There are certain confidentialities to the matter that ought to be respected. There has been progress and I won’t say anything beyond that.”

Knowledgeable sources told IANS that the key sticking points that remain include a clause on sustainable development that seeks to bind India to a range of human rights and environmental commitments.

Manmohan Singh will also seek to strengthen India-Belgium bilateral ties during his stay in Brussels till Saturday morning. He is scheduled to meet with Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme at a working dinner Friday evening.

“There is potential to develop investment in areas such as energy, ports, construction, banking and finance, solar energy and biotechnology,” said Katju.

On the second leg of the three-day tour, the prime minister will arrive in Berlin Saturday afternoon for talks with German President Christian Wulff and Chancellor Angela Merkel during his eight-hour stay in the German capital.

The talks are expected to make a push for reforms in the UN. Both India and Germany, elected as non-permanent members to the UNSC who will begin their two-year terms in January, are aspirants for a permanent seat in a revamped council.

Manmohan Singh and Merkel will discuss a range of issues including global terrorism, situation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, German ambassador to India Thomas Matussek said.

He said civil and defence trade and global and regional security issues will be the highlights of the talks between the leaders.

The India-German relations are marked by rapidly growing economic and trade ties with Germany being India’s largest trading partner in EU.

This will be Manmohan Singh’s third visit to Germany since he became the prime minister six years ago.

–Indo-Asian New Service

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