Brussels, Dec 10 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday said India and the 27-nation European Union (EU) should take the lead in avoiding protectionism and open their markets for expanded business cooperation.
Manmohan Singh, after attending the 11th India-EU summit, said he was confident the two sides were on the ‘right track’ in enhancing their economic and strategic ties.
‘India and Europe should take the lead in avoiding protectionist trends, keeping our markets open and encouraging the free flow and movement of people,’ he told reporters.
He said he conveyed to the European leadership ‘the vast opportunities’ that exist for European investment in India in the areas of infrastructure, high technology, research and development, clean energy and innovation.
‘We are particularly keen to benefit from Europe’s experience in the area of skill development, vocational training and small and medium enterprises.’
The summit was held amid negotiations over problems coming in way of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two sides.
The accord, in protracted negotiations since 2007 is expected to generate two-way trade worth about 100 billion euros, up from the existing 70 billion.
The FTA was supposed to be readied for inking during the Brussels summit and would now be wrapped up by early next year.
Manmohan Singh praised the negotiators from the two sides for the ‘commendable work’ done and also called for a broad-based trade and investment agreement.
‘We are at the last stages of this complex exercise. We have directed our officials to redouble their efforts to reach a conclusion by the spring of 2011. Finalisation of a balanced agreement will bring enormous benefits to both sides,’ he said.
He said India’s partnership with the EU was poised for further expansion, and ‘we will work with the EU towards world peace, stability and prosperity’.
‘We see EU as a key strategic partner in meeting India’s development needs.’
Over the years, the partnership between India and the European Union has matured tremendously, covering areas like politics, security, education and science.
The EU’s trade in goods with India, that is its ninth largest trading partner, picked up in the first nine months of 2010 after a slump in 2009 due to the global recession, according to data released here. For India, the EU is its largest trading partner with bilateral trade touching 70 billion euros this year.
Manmohan Singh said agreements on bilateral cooperation on peaceful uses of nuclear energy and maritime transport are under negotiation.
He said the two sides discussed opportunities for greater cooperation in the political and security spheres. ‘We have agreed to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation. There is, in addition, scope for working together in combatting non-traditional threats to security such as piracy.’