EU, India Leaders Outline Plans to Boost Bilateral Cooperation in Trade, Climate Change

7 April 2016

The EU and India are aiming to give “new momentum” to their bilateral cooperation in areas ranging from climate and energy policy to trade and investment, said leaders from both sides following a high-level meeting in Brussels on 30 March.

The 13th EU-India Summit brought together European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and comes amid growing speculation over whether the two sides will be able to reboot their long-stalled trade talks in the near-term.

At the meeting, leaders endorsed the “EU-India agenda for action 2020,” which outlines a series of objectives in areas such as foreign policy and security cooperation, human rights, trade and investment, and climate change and energy, among others, where they aim to cooperate in the coming years.

While the document includes a section on trade, investment, business, and the economy, leaders did not make any new announcements on next steps for a planned trade deal between the two sides.

However, they noted, “both sides remain engaged to discuss how to deepen their bilateral trade and investment relations in order to fully reap the benefits, including through negotiations on the Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement.”

Meanwhile, Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said this week that New Delhi is interested in advancing the trade talks, telling reporters that “we want to have the EU FTA signed at earliest.”

Recent meetings have raised the possibility that renewed trade talks could be on the horizon, with a January meeting in Brussels being welcomed as “extremely positive” in helping address some of the current sticking points. (See Bridges Weekly, 21 January 2016).

The bilateral trade negotiations have been stalled since 2013, with the launch of the talks dating back to 2007. Talks have struggled to advance due to reported differences on topics ranging from automobile and wine tariffs, geographical indications, insurance, intellectual property rights, services market access, and various other subjects.

According to EU statistics, the 28-nation bloc’s exports to India amounted to €38.1 billion last year, with the total value of their bilateral trade at €77.5 billion. Services trade has also seen significant growth over the years, amounting to €24.4 billion in 2014.

Climate, energy

Together with the 2020 agenda, the two sides also released a joint declaration on climate and energy, outlining a series of non-binding pledges to boost cooperation on the subject – particularly in light of the Paris Agreement reached at the UN climate talks last December.

The declaration notes that the two sides share a “common interest to promote clean energy generation and increased energy efficiency for climate action, including through related global support to developing countries,” noting that these can lead to improvements in international energy security.

Furthermore, it says, there is a need for “international technology partnerships” to give a boost in sharing and putting into effect climate-friendly energy technologies, along with increasing the level of climate finance available for assisting developing countries in their mitigation and adaptation efforts.

In this context, the two sides plan to set up a “Clean Energy and Climate Partnership” that involves government, private sector, and civil society representatives; to exchange views on a series of areas relating to clean energy, clean coal technologies, energy efficiency, and climate change; to share their lessons learned as they implement their “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement; and to push for improved access, funding, and spread of climate-friendly technologies.

Such a partnership, they say, should lead to an action-oriented work programme by this spring, as well as regular stocktaking on progress.

The work programme, they note, should include cooperation to help India in its efforts to develop offshore wind energy production, as well as with its flagship National Solar Mission; assistance in helping India with its NDC implementation; and review where the two sides might cooperate regarding the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer, particularly with regards to climate-warming hydrofluorocarbons, among various other actions.

ICTSD reporting; “EU-India: reincarnation of a strategic partnership,” EU OBSERVER, 31 March 2016; “India keen to re-engage with EU on stalled FTA talks: Nirmala,” TIMES OF INDIA, 4 April 2016.

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