New Delhi: Warsaw has requested New Delhi to be “more open” in doing business with Poland as the Central European country wants to invest more in India’s food and agro-processing sector, according to Adam Burakowski, Polish ambassador to India.
In an interview to ThePrint, Burakowski said Poland has requested India to restart talks with the European Union (EU) over the long-pending free trade agreement, also known as the Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), for the benefit of both sides.
“We want India to be more open and we want to be more open to India … We want to have more trade with India and want to invest more here. Same, I know, the Indian investors want to do. India is no. 1 for Polish investors in the whole of Asia,” he told ThePrint.
He said Poland wants greater collaboration with India in sectors such as food and food-processing, smart cities, cyber security and also between think-tanks.
Poland is India’s largest trade partner and export destination in the Central European region, with bilateral trade growing almost seven-fold over the last 10 years, according to official statistics.
The overall value of bilateral trade in 2019 was $2.36 billion. India’s export to Poland contributed to 0.48 per cent of overall India’s export. However, only 0.15 per cent of India’s import was covered by Poland that year. An increase of 2.5 per cent in bilateral trade was visible in 2019 in comparison with previous years, the statistics showed.
‘Resolving BTIA helps both countries’
According to Burakowski, there is a huge potential in enhancing the business relationship between India and Poland that is waiting to be tapped. But, he said, this can only be done when India and the EU sign the trade pact, which has been under discussion since 2007.
“We are looking forward to this (BTIA-EU India FTA) agreement, which has been under discussion for many years now. This will make the lives of our companies and traders easier. There are some MOUs pending between Poland and India,” the envoy said.
In August 2019, during the last visit of External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to Poland, India had expressed its desire to engage with the European country in the Visegrad format, which is also known as the Visegrad Four or V4.
The V4 is a group of four Central European countries — Poland, Hungry, Czech Republic and Slovakia — that share common values. They are members of the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Burakowski added that there could be some decision on resuming the BTIA talks during the EU-India Summit that will take place in May in Portugal this year.
“The BTIA will be a very big step into this direction. Sooner or later it will be signed,” he said.
Formal negotiations on the BTIA have been suspended since 2013. Though there was resumption of talks at the technical level in 2017, these also eventually reached an impasse. During the last India-EU summit, which was held virtually in July 2020, both sides failed to arrive at a conclusion in reviving the talks that got stuck on issues such as reduction of tariffs and market access.
‘Want air bubble with India, ties with China economic’
According to Burakowski, the coronavirus pandemic adversely impacted businessmen and exporters on both sides.
“We are more keen on connectivity. We hope for the reopening of the flights between Warsaw and Delhi. We’ve urged India to resume the direct flights that got stopped due to the pandemic. I feel the pressure on the businesses to act more to overcome these obstacles that are there because of Covid. We are also working out some legal framework for them,” he said, adding that Warsaw is keen on having an air bubble arrangement.
According to him, Poland is now looking at expanding the direct cargo rail link that they have with China.
“Our relationship with China is based mainly on economics. There’s a cargo train that goes from Chengdu in Sichuan province to Lodz in Poland, twice daily with cargo. We are expanding this route to make it faster. So trade is the main focus with China,” he said.
Poland, as part of the EU, is also party to the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment that the bloc signed with China in 2020.
On ties with Afghanistan
In 2020, Polish Security Printing Works (PWPW) signed a contract to produce 380 million banknotes for Afghanistan using modern technology. The notes have anti-soiling coating Fortis Pro, are protected with Coat4Note varnish based on PWPW unique production method, and are characterised by higher protection against chemical solvents and soiling than its classic counterpart.
“First batch of banknotes was delivered to Kabul last week and the next are scheduled till the end of 2022. We hope that the cooperation between Poland and Afghanistan will be fruitful and will grow in the future,” he said.