New Delhi: As India and the European Union prepare to resume negotiations for a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) in June after nearly a decade of stalled talks, last month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed to launch a Trade and Technology Council.
The deal was signed during von der Leyen’s visit to India on 25 April.
The India-EU Trade and Technology Council, which will focus on areas like 5G and artificial intelligence and will seek to deepen cooperation in trade and security, appears to be a response to “geopolitical changes”.
“Both sides agreed that rapid changes in the geopolitical environment highlight the need for joint in-depth strategic engagement,” a joint statement by India and the European Union stated.
“The Trade and Technology Council will provide the political steer and the necessary structure to operationalise political decisions, coordinate technical work, and report to the political level to ensure implementation and follow-up in areas that are important for the sustainable progress of European and Indian economies,” added a press release issued by the European Commission.
Speaking to ThePrint, Pradeep Multani, president of industry chamber PHDCCI, noted that the Ukraine war has played a role in the formation of this council.
“The shared values and common interests of the EU and India will offer a strong relationship in trade, trusted technology, and security in the wake of rapid geopolitical changes like the Ukraine war,” said Multani.
Key focus areas will include AI, 5G, cross-border data sharing
The only other country with which the EU shares a similar technology cooperation mechanism is the US. Announced last June, the US-EU Trade and Technology Council is said to have ten Working Groups focusing on a range of issues like tech standards, climate and green tech, secure supply chains etc.
According to Multani, the Working Groups under the India-EU Trade and Technology Council will focus on challenges from “non-market economic policies and practices” to boost trade relations and avoid new and unnecessary technical barriers in products and services of emerging technology.
The Council will also help promote and protect labour rights and “decent” work, and trade and environment issues, he added.
Industry experts have also said that AI, 5G and cross-border data sharing will be key focus areas for the India-EU Trade and Technology Council.
Boost to FTA negotiations
The Council is believed to be one of many initiatives that India and the EU will launch as FTA negotiations move forward. A high-level EU-India Digital Investment Forum was also proposed in July 2020 by von der Leyen, but is yet to be implemented.
According to Arpita Mukherjee, professor at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), initiatives like the Council will help “smoothen” overall FTA negotiations.
“There is a lot of synergy between the EU and India when it comes to digital technology. A council like this will help smoothen negotiations over mutually collaborative partnerships and removal of any larger concerns,” she said.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)