Indian, EU Leaders to Push Towards Free Trade Zone

EU India trade is at $1.5 billion a week.

At a summit to be held in New Delhi on Nov. 30, EU and Indian leaders will seek to push forward plans for a free trade zone and further boost a burgeoning relationship between the regional powers.

The 8th EU-India summit comes at a "symbolic time" according to an EU spokesman in Brussels, referring to the 60 years since Indian independence from Britain, 50 years since the EU's founding Rome Treaty and 45 years since the start of bilateral diplomatic relations. EU-India trade has come a long way since those political landmarks, and is currently running at one billion euros (US$1.5 billion) a week.

European Commission delegation chief Daniele Smadja told a news conference in Delhi on Nov. 26 that it was seeking "fast" agreement on the free trade deal. EU foreign ministers gave the green light in April for the talks to start with India. But neither side was predicting when an agreement will be struck.

The EU is already India's largest trading partner, and a major source of investment. Last year the 27 EU nations invested 1.6 billion euros in India. The south Asian giant's 1.1 billion strong population and fast-growing middle class represent a huge market for EU companies. The EU is increasingly looking towards the massive growth potential of Asian markets.

European leaders will use meetings this week in Beijing, including an EU-China summit on Wednesday, to put fresh pressure on Chinese authorities over the Asian economic giant's booming exports and state-controlled exchange rate.

At the Delhi summit the EU and Indian leaders will also discuss climate change and the environment, airing their views ahead of December's conference in Bali aimed at forging a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol. India has so far refused to commit to emissions targets, saying its priority is to pull its huge population out of poverty.

The two sides are also expected to announce the renewal of a science and technology cooperation agreement and move towards coordinated research projects.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

TAGS: Trade
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