Berlin: India on Wednesday sought a strong political thrust from Germany, a key member of the 27-nation European Union bloc, for inking of the long pending Free Trade Agreement with the grouping. This was conveyed by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid during his comprehensive talks with German counterpart Guido Westerwelle, during which various bilateral, regional and international issues including EU-India FTA, Iran's contentious nuclear programme, and North Korea were discussed.
Khurshid said technocrats have done their work and it was time for strong political move on this issue. Germany appreciated the oil cut India made from Iran. Speaking after meeting Westerwelle, Khurshid told reporters that he hoped the free trade agreement could be concluded "as quickly as possible."
Westerwelle praised India as a "great nation", "a power centre on the rise" and an "economic success story that has shifted the weight in the world". He added: "We have many partners in the world, but India is a democracy, the biggest democracy in the world". Westerwelle said Germany supports an India-European Union trade and investment pact, which would remove most tariff and non-tariff barriers. Talks for the deal were first launched in 2007. "We believe that a free trade agreement between the EU and India would point the way toward more growth and prosperity" in both countries, he said.
Khurshid thanked Germany for its support on the negotiations, which he said "will be concluded hopefully soon", and called the EU's biggest economy a "constant companion, friend, strategic partner". Officials had hoped to conclude the agreement by 2012 but it has been hung up over a wide range of issues, including EU demands for intellectual property protections and investor guarantees, and import duties on automobiles.
Increasing the insurance cap by India is virtually a "must" for inking of the long-pending India-European Union FTA, which has seen 15 rounds of negotiations since its launch in 2007. Germany has made it clear that a only a "comprehensive" broad-based Indian-EU Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) was acceptable and not a "partial" one. India has recently inked a selective FTA with ASEAN which excludes two countries - Philippines and Indonesia - in services sector.