India and the European Union have agreed to resume talks for a balanced, ambitious and comprehensive trade agreement and also launch negotiations for a stand-alone investment protection pact, the External Affairs Ministry said on Saturday. These decisions were taken during a virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the heads of state or government of all the 27-member states of the bloc with a focus on expanding overall cooperation in areas of trade, investment and connectivity. The two sides also launched a sustainable and comprehensive connectivity partnership, the ministry said and described the summit as a “watershed” moment in the ties.
The leaders also exchanged views on the COVID-19 pandemic and healthcare cooperation. The India-EU leaders’ meeting is hosted by Prime Minister of Portugal Antonio Costa. Portugal currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. “We are opening a new chapter in #EUIndia strategic partnership at the meeting of EU Leaders with PM @narendramodi,” tweeted Charles Michel, President of the European Council.
Modi was scheduled to visit Portugal for the leaders’ meeting but it was called off in view of the coronavirus crisis and both sides decided to hold the deliberations virtually. A strategically important grouping, the EU as a whole was India’s largest trading partner in 2018. India’s bilateral trade with the EU in 2018-19 stood at USD 115.6 billion with exports valued at USD 57.17 billion and imports worth USD 58.42 billion.
In the 15th India-EU summit in July last year, Prime Minister Modi had pitched for bringing out an “action-oriented” agenda to further expand ties between the two sides.