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EU-India Summit

Successful EU-India summit

The 15 July summit was deemed ‘very successful’ by both sides. The meeting between Narendra Modi, Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen covered a wide range of issues, including energy and climate policy, health, digital, security, human rights – and trade. The atmospherics were ‘good’ with Michel describing India as ‘an indispensable partner.’ A substantial joint political declaration reflected a large convergence of views of global affairs. There was also a joint action plan for the next five years (see below) and, among other deliverables, agreement to establish a new high level dialogue on trade and investment.

Moving ahead on the trade front will not be easy. The EU is India's largest trade and investment partner. But India represents only about 2% of EU external trade. After a decade of inconclusive FTA negotiations, the talks were suspended in 2017. Since then the two sides have sparred over agriculture, bilateral investment agreements, tariffs on electrical goods and data privacy standards. India did not join the ad hoc group that the EU sponsored to deal with the breakdown of the WTO dispute settlement system. More recently there have been problems over exports of drugs and other medical products which has prompted a discussion about the need to rebalance supply chains.

Nevertheless, the joint statement aid that ‘The High Level Dialogue will aim at fostering progress on the trade and investment agreements, addressing trade irritants and improving conditions for traders and investors on both sides as well as discuss supply chain linkages.’

Politically there was agreement to increase their cooperation on maritime security and defence, terrorism and cyber threats. China was not mentioned but was clearly at the back of participants’ minds.

On the economic side, the EU was keen to hammer home the message that the global economy recovery after Covid-19 would demand a strengthened multilateral system, a veiled reference to alleged protectionist tendencies by India. Both sides also agreed on the importance of tackling climate change and working together on sustainable modernisation.

Find the text of the road map for 2025 here.

/// OP-ED
Merkel Xi

The EU’s ‘My Way’ with China

By Fraser Cameron

In contrast to the US administration’s ideological war with China, the EU is still keen to maintain a cooperative relationship where possible with Beijing. According to one senior EU official, Pompeo’s speech at the Nixon centre last week was ‘high on bombast and low on policy.’ he added that the EU will not refrain from criticising China over human rights or taking action, as it did this week on Hong Kong, but it sees no other option than to work closely with China in the current crisis.


EU Ursula

Virtual EU-China Summit

The first summit on 22 June between the new EU leadership team of Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel with China’s President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang was a virtual affair because of the Covid-19 pandemic. There was no joint statement and no joint press conference.

Instead the EU issues a lengthy statement recounting its side of events. The EU side accepted that EU –China relations ‘were crucial in many areas’ but at the same time, ‘we have to recognise that we do not share the same values, political systems, or approach to multilateralism.’ For our relations to develop further, ‘they must become more rules-based and reciprocal, in order to achieve a real level playing-field.’

Foe the EU a key indicator will be progress on the long-running negotiations on an investment agreement. Whether the investment agreement will now be finalised this year is an open question. The pandemic has not helped the negotiating process although some progress has been made by video conference, including a deal on geographical indications.

But if China does not accept the principle of reciprocity, end industrial subsidies and the practice of enforced technology transfer then the barriers would go up. The Commission had already shown it means business by presenting new proposals to tackle unfair subsidies and block predatory take-overs of companies by third countries.


22 July Webinar: EU-India relations

On 22 July, the EU-Asia Centre hosted a webinar on EU-India relations with Caroline Vinot (Head of Division for India, EEAS), Samir Saran (President of the Observer Research Foundation) and Shada Islam (Managing Director, Global Horizons Project and Senior Advisor, EU-Asia Centre). Fraser Cameron, Director of EU-Asia Centre, moderated the event.