India and EU will resume formal negotiations for a comprehensive free trade agreement and an investment protection agreement on Saturday when PM Modi meets 27 EU heads of state and government in a leaders’ meeting. The meeting will happen in Porto, but Modi will join virtually.
The other key deliverables would be a comprehensive connectivity partnership agreement and one on recognising each other’s Geographical Indicators. India and EU will also resume a human rights dialogue, which is significant at a time when India has come in for international criticism on a number of human rights fronts, from farmers’ protests to Kashmir.
In his invitation to the 27 EU heads for Saturday’s ‘leaders’ meeting’, Charles Michel, president of the European Council said, “We will discuss how to reinforce our strategic partnership with India. I believe the current global situation may allow us to open a new important chapter in our relationship and we should make the best of this opportunity.”
EU officials described the FTA resumption as a “breakthrough”. Negotiations have been suspended since 2013, and in the past eight years, all attempts to breathe life into the deal has failed. After the India-EU summit in July 2020, the two sides had constituted a high-level task force which believed they could smoothen the way for resuming talks. Sources said it was India’s flexibility and a more proactive approach that got the deal back on track again.
If India and EU can actually get the deal done, that would spell a massive shift in India’s trade policy.