Efforts are underway within the European Union (EU) to encourage India to provide meaningful access to its markets as part of negotiations for a free trade agreement. The call for substantial market access was made by Spanish Deputy Trade Minister Xiana Mendez during an EU meeting, which was presided over by Spain as part of its rotating presidency of the European Council.
The EU and India resumed discussions last year with the aim of crafting a comprehensive free trade agreement, seen as a strategic move to counterbalance China's growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region. However, concerns have arisen within the EU about the adequacy of India's proposals to ensure a comprehensive pact.
Mendez emphasized the EU's determination to advance these negotiations, stating, "We've noted a renewed political commitment on India's part, and we are eager to strengthen these discussions. Member states are highly interested but insist that access to India's market must be substantive; otherwise, the trade agreement would lose its significance."
The EU's interests in these negotiations encompass securing improved market access in India for products such as automobiles, alcoholic beverages, and agri-food items like cheese. In contrast, India seeks to gain advantages in the services sector and aims for simplified visa access to the EU for Indian professionals.
Furthermore, the European Union is actively pursuing a resolution on steel trade with the United States by the year's end, according to Mendez. While immediate solutions were not anticipated during an EU-U.S. summit in Washington, the EU is striving for a comprehensive agreement with the United States before the year concludes.
Under former U.S. President Donald Trump's leadership in 2018, the United States had imposed import tariffs on EU steel and aluminum. However, these tariffs were suspended, contingent upon both parties reaching an agreement on addressing issues related to overcapacity in non-market economies, particularly China, and promoting environmentally sustainable steel production by the end of this month.
Mendez indicated that progress has been made regarding duties, shifting towards a definitive solution rather than a temporary fix. Nevertheless, negotiations are ongoing concerning the challenges posed by excess capacity in the steel industry and the transition towards a more environmentally friendly, low-carbon sector.