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India and the EU vow to renew trade talks

A stalled free trade agreement between India and the European Union, its largest trading partner, was given new life. Still many issues like intellectual property rights remain to be spelled out.

At the 14th EU-India Summit in New Delhi, European Union and Indian negotiators agreed on Friday to ratchet up talks on a free trade agreement both sides have been working on since 2007, but which has been held up since 2013.

The agreement is supposed to cover market access in goods, services and public procurement, as well as create a framework for protecting investments.

Specifically the EU has been seeking to reduce restrictions on investment in India's retail, insurance and banking sectors and lower import duties on cars. India wants more opportunities in Europe for its information technology and business outsourcing services.

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Key sticking points include differences about intellectual property rights, and European worries about whether India has adequate security infrastructure to protect personal data.

Showing just how important these talks were, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the Indian delegation, while European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk led the European side.

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"We agreed that we should take our trading relationship to the next level," Juncker said after the meetings. "It is high time for a free trade agreement between India and the EU."

Bigger is better

The European Union, a bloc of 28 countries, is India's largest regional trading partner, accounting for over 13 percent of its overall trade, ahead of China and the United States.

Yearly bilateral trade in goods and services is worth around 100 billion euros ($117 billion). Even after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019, the bloc will still be India's biggest trading partner, Juncker said.

"Today's summit is an important step in the right direction and after hearing Prime Minister Modi, I am confident we can move forward," Juncker said. "Our chief negotiators will next sit down in November to chart a way forward," he added.

Besides economic ties, the two agreed to step up cooperation in countering violent extremism and radicalization, particularly online, and in enhancing maritime security in the Indian Ocean and beyond, as well as working together to address climate change.  

tr/kd (AP, dpa)

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