Prime Minister leaves for Sweden and the U.K. on five-day trip
The PM will begin bilateral meetings with his Swedish counterpart today
The long-pending free trade agreement between the European Union and India, development and ‘innovation’ are on the agenda as Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins official meetings in Stockholm on Tuesday.
Mr. Modi will begin the day with bilateral meetings with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, and then cohost the first India-Nordic summit along with Sweden, attended by leaders of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway.
Slow pace of agreement
“I don’t think you can expect Mr. Modi’s visit to change the pace of the [EU-India] negotiations. But I’m sure the Nordic countries will make the case, and it will be noted by the Indian side, and sooner or later the negotiations will continue,” Sweden’s Ambassador to India Klas Molin told The Hindu in an interview ahead of the visit.
Despite several promises at the summit level, and conversations between trade officials, India and the EU have failed to pick up negotiations on the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) as it is known, since they broke down in 2013.
Last Thursday, the chief negotiators met for technical talks again in Brussels, but no breakthrough has been announced as yet.
Another issue that is being debated is the sequencing of an investment protection treaty, given that India scrapped all its bilateral investment treaties with some 50 countries last year. As a result, trade and investment has been below potential, with India-Sweden trade pegged at a low $1.8 billion last year, down from $2.8 billion in 2011-12. However, Mr. Molin said the number of Swedish companies operating in India had grown in the past three years from 170 to 190.
“Would we like a free trade agreement between the EU and India? Yes, of course, and we hope it would include an investment protection segment. But does that mean that companies are not investing here because of the lack of protection? Not really,” Mr. Molin said.
In a statement on the eve of his departure, Mr. Modi, who landed in Stockholm on Monday evening, said he would also discuss an innovation partnership, “science and technology, skill development, smart cities, clean energy, digitisation and health,” with his Swedish counterpart.
Mr. Modi will end the day in Stockholm with an address to a crowd of 1,100 Indian community members.