EFTA hopeful of finalising India trade deal in ‘days or weeks’: Norway minister | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

EFTA hopeful of finalising India trade deal in ‘days or weeks’: Norway minister

Feb 22, 2024 08:36 PM IST

The issue of specific targets for investments and possible ramifications if such targets aren’t met had come up in the negotiations

New Delhi: The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is hopeful of finalising a trade deal with India “within a few days or weeks” and the four-nation bloc has a “clear ambition” to sign the agreement before the country enters its election cycle, Norway’s deputy foreign minister Andreas Motzfeldt Kravik said on Thursday.

Norway’s deputy foreign minister Andreas Motzfeldt Kravik (Photo/X)
Norway’s deputy foreign minister Andreas Motzfeldt Kravik (Photo/X)

Against the backdrop of India reportedly seeking a commitment from EFTA, which comprises Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, to invest up to $100 billion in the next 15 years, Kravik declined to go into specifics but said the issue of specific targets for investments and possible ramifications if such targets aren’t met had come up in the negotiations.

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“I think what we’re looking at now is that there will have to be some sort of targets that we are bound to promote, which we think is a good compromise,” he said in an interview on the margins of the Raisina Dialogue. There is a lot of appetite for the agreement in the Norwegian business community, and this coupled with India’s economic growth of close to 10% a year makes the EFTA states “very confident” f reaching those targets, he said.

“I met with some of the leading businesses in Norway just before travelling here and...they’re very eager to get started to get into the Indian market, which is very interesting for them. So, we’re very optimistic,” Kravik said.

The two sides held the 21st round of negotiations on the proposed Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) in New Delhi during January 8-13.

Also Read: India, 4 European countries eye trade deal as Delhi pushes for $100b investment

Asked if the EFTA members intend to sign the trade deal before India enters its election cycle, Kravik replied: “That’s our clear ambition. Of course, there are always things in flux...but we’re very hopeful and quite comfortable in saying that this will be finalised within a few days or weeks perhaps.”

Advancing and expanding the relationship with India is one of Norway’s “core foreign policy priorities” since this is also crucial for good relations with the Global South, he said. India also affords an opportunity for Norwegian companies with expertise and technology for the green transition to scale up their products, he added.

Referring to attacks on merchant shipping in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthi rebels to show solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Kravik said the situation is concerning for both Norway and India since vessels from both countries have been targeted. “India also has a stake in this because you have Indian vessels and Indian crew on lots of these vessels,” he said.

Norway hasn’t been part of the military coalition that targeted the Houthis, not because it doesn’t share the same objectives, but because it believes in remaining engaged with the rebels to ensure the cessation of hostilities in the Red Sea if a ceasefire comes into effect in the Gaza Strip, Kravik said.

Kravik, who travelled to India after attending a UN-sponsored meeting on Afghanistan in Doha, said Norway backed the recommendation to appoint a UN special envoy to Afghanistan.

Acknowledging that it is easy for Afghanistan to recede on the global agenda because of the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, Kravik said: “We’ve said repeatedly there needs to be more engagement with the Taliban. Of course, in that engagement, we need to be very clear-eyed about their commitments to human rights, especially the rights of women and girls. We’ve been very concerned about some of the regressions that we’ve seen since the Taliban took over.”

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