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 Hindu - - FRONT PAGE - Suhasini Haidar

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.

Mea­gre num­bers

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.

Klas Molin

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