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Ind-EU Jt Action Plan to effect 'step change'

India and the EU will effect a "step change" in their strategic partnership when they ink a Joint Action Plan during their summit in New Delhi on Wednesday.

india Updated: Sep 06, 2005 15:28 IST

India and the European Union (EU) will effect a "step change" in their strategic partnership when they ink a Joint Action Plan during their summitin New Delhion Wednesday to broaden their engagement on a range of issues.

"We are very anxious on a step change in our partnership. We need to broaden our contact on a broad range of issues in line with India's growing engagement on the global scene," British High Commissioner in India Michael Arthur, speaking on behalf of the EU, said at a press conference in New Delhi on Friday.

Britain currently holds the EU presidency. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who arrives in New Delhi on Tuesday for the summit, will also hold bilateral political and economic talks with his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, and key ministers and officials on Thursday. A high-level business delegation will accompany Blair.

For the first time since they began their formal engagement at the Lisbon summit in 2000, India and the EU will issue a joint political declaration that will form one part of the Joint Action Plan. The other part deals with trade and issues like energy and environment.

"It (the Joint Action Plan) is in line with our commitment to (broaden engagement) in a wide range of areas," Arthur said, declining to speak in detail about the document beyond saying its contours would be revealed at the India-EU summit.

"We look at our relations to mutual benefit," Arthur added.

According to him, there was "growing recognition" here of the importance of trade with the EU but much needed to be done to improve the investment climate in this country.

The EU is India's biggest trading partner, with the $33 billion volume recorded in 2004 representing a rise of 17 per cent over the previous year. The EU accounts for 25 per cent of India's exports. Twenty-five per cent of the foreign direct investment (FDI) in India comes from EU countries and is larger than the share of the US and Japan put together.

"There is still potential for more. The growth of trade has to be commensurate with the growth of the Indian economy," Arthur maintained.

Terming EU investment in India a "key issue", the high commissioner called for "creating an environment" to facilitate this.

"It is important that the climate for FDI is as investor friendly as possible. At present, there are a number of impediments and limitations, for instance on proportionate holdings in joint ventures. There are also caps on investment," Arthur added, referring to areas like banking and insurance.

Asked about the possibility of an India-EU comprehensive economic cooperation agreement on the lines of that inked between New Delhi and Singapore, Arthur indicated it was early days yet to think of one, even though a "high group of experts" was examining the issue.

First Published: Sep 06, 2005 10:31 IST