EU keen on FTA talks with India: Belgian Minister

The agreement will strengthen the ties between India and Belgium, says former EU Commissioner for Trade

By Author  |  Business Bureau  |  Published: 30th Nov 2019  9:51 pmUpdated: 30th Nov 2019  9:52 pm
Belgian Minister
Karel De Gucht

Hyderabad: European Union (EU), headquartered in Brussels (Belgium) is keen to restart talks with India for the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The agreement will strengthen the ties between India and Belgium, says former EU Commissioner for Trade.

Bilateral trade between India and Belgium during the fiscal year 2018-19 was $17.2 billion, which makes Belgium a top-three trading partner with India from the EU. The European nation is encouraging innovation and ties across verticals including life sciences, IT, telecom and machinery. Belgium is centrally located in the European continent with access to more than 500 million consumers and 80 per cent of Europe’s purchasing power within a radius of 800 km.

Indian IT companies such as Cyient, TCS and Wipro are in active talks with Belgium for growth opportunities. Hyderabad-based Cyient during April 2018 acquired AnSem for $17 million.

Karel De Gucht, former EU Commissioner for Trade and Minister of State, Belgium, said, “The moment has come for the European Union and India to consider restart the FTA talks. EU has signed agreements with countries such as Canada, Japan, Vietnam, Korea and Singapore. The FTA will help India to boost growth stimulus and help improve infrastructure.”

On the impact of Brexit, he said, the transition process will extend up to the end of 2021. UK, post exit from Europe, will have to comply with the customs rules of the continent. The Brexit move has brought uncertainty among the industry whether to invest or not. The UK was ill-prepared for the Brexit. Belgium and Netherlands will suffer most in the Europe as the nations had closer ties with the UK. There will be negative impact on the growth figures and GDP of Belgium.

He said that the trade war with China is a systemic problem. US and Europe have the same stand over China’s theft of intellectual property, forced joint ventures and other issues. Europe and Japan should politely ask China to change the course rather than forcing China to change its course, the way the US is doing.

On the focus collaboration areas for India and Belgium, he added, “We are trying to attract pharmaceuticals and logistics companies to invest in Belgium and partner with Belgian companies. We have several branded formulations companies that make patented medicines. Indian generics companies should use the opportunity and foray into Belgium.”

Dr Reddy’s Laboratories co-chairman and CEO G V Prasad and Belgium’s honorary consul in Hyderabad said, the generics penetration in Belgium is low at about 30-40 per cent compared to UK and Germany, which can be improved. Dr Reddy’s currently works with UCB in Belgium.

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