Government attempts fresh focus on FTAs, talks with U.S., EU and ASEAN negotiators next week

With fresh focus on resolving its pending talks on trade and dispelling criticism that India has been ‘protectionist’ and held up Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations, the Modi government will engage in three sets of important trade talks: with the European Union (EU), the United States and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) negotiators this week.


On Friday, sources say, the chief negotiators of the EU and the Commerce Ministry will meet in an effort to restart talks on the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), which was suspended in 2013, despite several attempts to restart them.


Next Tuesday, a three-member delegation of ASEAN will visit Delhi to discuss taking negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to a conclusion by November. Assistant USTR (United States Trade Representative) Christopher Wilson and Deputy Assistant USTR Brendan Lynch will also be in Delhi next week to restart talks as decided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump when they met on the sidelines of the G20 summit last week in Osaka. They will prep for talks between USTR Robert Lightizer and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal.


The EU and India maintain regular contacts between their trade officials, including on issues related to a possible FTA, EU ambassador Tomasz Kozlowski told The Hindu on the informal BTIA talks between the Deputy General for Trade at the European Commission and a joint secretary from the Commerce Ministry.


They will basically sum up how the situation has changed after the elections, and I think they will find that the ground for restarting [FTA] talks is much more positive, former Indian Ambassador to the EU and author of book India and EU: An Insider's View Bhaswati Mukherjee explained.


Meanwhile, RCEP negotiators visiting Delhi, including ASEAN secretary general Lim Jock Hoi, hope to push India into committing to the Asian FTA by the RCEP summit in November. Last year, Mr. Modi had pushed the deadline to 2019, given the elections in four RCEP countries.