PM leaves for Brussels tomorrow for India-EU summit | delhi | Hindustan Times
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PM leaves for Brussels tomorrow for India-EU summit

delhi Updated: Dec 08, 2010 17:42 IST

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh embarks on a two-nation European tour to Belgium and Germany on Thursday with the India-EU summit expected to lay out a roadmap for greater bilateral engagement, especially in trade.

The 11th summit in Brussels on Friday is being held in the backdrop of negotiators from India and the 27-nation bloc trying to narrow down differences to hammer out a Trade and Investment Agreement that could help in increasing bilateral trade by about 40 per cent to touch 100 billion Euros.

The keenly awaited Agreement is expected to be finalised by next March. The differences broadly relate to social issues like environment and labour standards as well as intellectual property rights.

"The next round of negotiations will be this month. By March, we expect to conclude the negotiations on the free trade agreement," according to Commerce Minister Anand Sharma.

Ahead of the annual summit, Vivek Katju, Secretary (West) in the External Affairs Ministry said, "it will provide an occasion to discuss the expansion of the India-EU engagement as EU itself evolves and takes on more and diverse responsibilities."

"EU is an important trading partner of India and also a significant source of investment," he said.

The UN Security Council reforms, growing terror threats, situation in Pakistan and counter-terrorism strategies are also expected to engage the attention of Singh and the European leadership in Brussels and also during the prime minister's summit talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during his short visit to Berlin on Saturday.

India and Germany, who along with Japan and Brazil have made serious bids for permanent membership of the UN Security Council, take their place as non-permanent members for a two-year term from January 1.

Germany is expected to make a sharp pitch to strengthen its Defence ties with India which is scouting for military hardware ranging from fighter jets and helicopters to mid-air refuelling aircraft and submarines.

Singh is due to return home on Sunday at the end of his three-day European tour.

A Joint Declaration on Culture is also expected to be signed between the Department of Culture and the EU Commission at the Brussels summit.

The EU side will be represented at the Summit by Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council and Joses Barroso, President of the European Commission.

An India-EU Business Summit will be also held on the margins of the Summit on the theme "EU-India Partnership Opportunities for Sustainable Development".

Prime Minister Singh will also have a bilateral meeting with his Belgian counterpart Yves Leterme in Brussels on Friday before proceeding to Berlin the next day for meetings with German President Chrisian Wulff and Chancellor Merkel.

Singh is visiting Germany for the third time after April 2006(when India was partner country at the Hanover Fair) and June, 2007 for the G8 plus G5 summit at Heiligendamm.

"Indo-German relations are also marked by rapidly growing economic and trade ties," Katju said.

Germany is India's largest trading partner in EU with bilateral trade touching 13.09 billion Euros in 2009.