Brussels, March 30 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said a creative approach was required to advance the stalled India-EU talks for a mutual free trade agreement that would benefit both sides. He also urged government and business leaders of Belgium to invest in India.
Ahead of the 13th India-European Union Summit here on Wednesday, Modi said: “I feel that a progressive path and creative mindset to the India-EU Trade and Investment Agreement can enable all the European countries, including Belgium, to benefit from India’s strong economic growth.”
Addressing mediapersons, with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel alongside him, Modi said: “For India, EU is one of our strongest strategic partners. Trade, investment and technology partnership between India and the EU would be one of the focus areas of our discussions.”
Among other issues on the agenda, the two sides will address the ongoing negotiations for a Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) with a view to instil some political impetus to the stalled talks.
The free trade agreement (FTA) talks with the EU were called off last year in response to the bloc’s ban on the sale of around 700 Indian pharma products.
In July last year, the EU had banned over 700 pharma products of GVK Biosciences, Hyderabad, for alleged manipulation of clinical trials.
The last round of the FTA talks, started in 2007, was held in May 2013 without any breakthrough owing to EU concerns on high tariffs on cars and wines. India’s concerns were in the area of services.
Referring to his earlier meeting with Michel with Belgian chief executives, Modi invited the Belgian government and companies to invest in India’s ambitious development projects like Digital India, Start-Up India and Skill India.
“Belgian businesses can make their global supply chains more cost effective by manufacturing in India,” he said.
“India’s goal to modernize infrastructure, especially railways and ports, and building of 100 plus smart cities also present a unique investment opportunity for the Belgian companies,” he added.
Earlier, Modi told the business leaders of Belgium that while diamonds remain India’s age-old link with their nation, new opportunities have opened up in his country, notably in IT and infrastructure.
“Diamonds are, of course, an old link between us. It provides employment to many in India.
“IT is another sector of promise,” the prime minister, who arrived here on Wednesday morning, told the Belgian CEOs over a luncheon meeting.
According to India’s foreign office, around 2,500 Indians are based in Antwerp, dealing mainly in diamond trade.
“Today we live in an interdependent world. India offers a huge opportunity — not just a market, but also a huge talent pool,” Modi said, and gave the examples of ports and inland waterways as areas that offer attractive opportunities.
Referring to climate change, he said that an agreement had been reached with the Belgian prime minister to deepen cooperation in renewable energy.
“We would also build partnerships in areas such as harnessing waste for energy, small wind turbines and zero emission buildings,” Modi said.