First India-EU Trade & Technology Council Ministerial Meeting on May 16

The inaugural ministerial meeting of the India-European Union Trade and Technology Council (TTC) is scheduled to take place in Brussels, Belgium on May 16, 2023.

Leading the Indian delegation as co-chairs are Piyush Goyal, Union Minister for Commerce & Industry, Textiles, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, alongside the External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar and the Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) Rajeev Chandrasekhar. Executive Vice Presidents Valdis Dombrovskis and Margrethe Vestager will co-chair the European Union (EU) side.

What to expect at the India-EU Trade and Technology Council sessions

On May 15, 2023, Goyal will hold a bilateral meeting with Dombrovskis, followed by stakeholder consultations of Working Group-3 (WG3), which will involve business leaders from both the EU and India. The focus areas of the WG3 meeting are trade, technology, and resilient supply chains, and it will see participation of six business leaders from the EU and India.

In the afternoon, Goyal is expected to attend a business event organized by the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium (FEB) and deliver the keynote address. The discussions during this meeting will cover the economic impact of Belgian enterprises in India, as well as plans for further investments in India. Additionally, the three Indian Ministers will also meet with the Belgian Prime Minister and the President of the European Commission.

On May 16, Goyal will participate in a stakeholder event for Working Groups 1 and 2. The event will be attended by eight business leaders from each side, who will present their views and suggestions. Goyal will deliver a Special Address at this event, which will also be attended by the EAM and EVP Vestager. A bilateral meeting with European Commissioner for Internal Trade, Mr. Thierry Breton, has also been scheduled to discuss issues related to the SME sector, the start-up ecosystem, and e-commerce.

This will be followed by the first ministerial meeting of the India-EU Trade and Technology Council, attended by the External Affairs Minister, the Minister for Commerce and Industry, and the Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology. The meeting will establish the roadmap for cooperation under all three working groups and provide guidance to achieve desired outcomes before the next ministerial meeting in 2024.

In meetings with senior EU and Belgian leaders, various topics of mutual interest will be discussed, including the ongoing negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and the EU, addressing mutual market access issues, WTO reforms, and cooperation in several areas of shared interest. India could bring up the newly approved EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which imposes a fee on the carbon emissions contained in certain imports.

The Working Group on Trade, Investment, and Resilient Value Chains is led by the Department of Commerce. The first meeting of this working group was co-chaired by Sunil Barthwal, Commerce Secretary, Government of India and Sabine Weyand, Director-General for Trade, EU, representing their respective sides.

Other meetings alongside the TTC ministerial

The negotiations on trade, investment, and geographical indications between India and the EU will proceed as separate strands, distinct from the TTC framework. The High-level Trade & Investment Dialogue will continue to serve as the primary platform for overseeing and advancing these negotiations.

Furthermore, there is a possibility of organizing the EU-India High-level Digital Investment Forum (DIF) in conjunction with the first TTC Ministerial meeting, providing an additional avenue for discussions related to digital investment.

Introduction to the three working groups under the India-EU TTC

The three Working Groups under the India-EU TTC mechanism are (1) Working Group on Strategic Technologies, Digital Governance and Digital Connectivity; (2) the Working Group on Green and Clean Energy Technologies; and (3) the Working Group on Trade, Investment, and Resilient Value Chains. The Ministerial meetings of the Trade and Technology Council (TTC) will build upon the groundwork carried out by these three working groups. 

WG1 on Strategic Technologies, Digital Governance, and Digital Connectivity: This working group will collaborate on areas of shared interest, such as digital connectivity, artificial intelligence (AI), 5G/6G technologies, high-performance and quantum computing, semiconductors, cloud systems, cybersecurity, digital skills, and digital platforms. It aims to foster cooperation and exploration of emerging technologies to drive mutual growth.

WG2 on Green and Clean Energy Technologies: The focus of this group will be on green technologies, including investment and standards. It will prioritize research and innovation in areas such as clean energy, circular economy practices, waste management, and addressing challenges like plastic pollution and marine litter. Additionally, it will facilitate collaboration between EU and Indian incubators, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and start-ups in the green technology sector.

WG3 on Trade, Investment, and Resilient Value Chains: This working group will address the resilience of supply chains and ensure access to critical components, energy, and raw materials. It will work towards resolving identified trade barriers and global trade challenges by promoting cooperation in multilateral forums. Moreover, the group will focus on promoting international standards and collaborating on addressing global geopolitical challenges related to trade and investment.

Overarching role of the India-EU TTC 

The creation of the India-European Union Trade and Technology Council was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, in New Delhi in April 2022. Its purpose is to create a high-level coordination platform to address strategic challenges related to trade, trusted technology, and security.

Ministerial meetings of the TTC will be held annually, ensuring regular high-level engagement between India and the EU. These meetings will alternate in terms of location, taking place in either India or the EU, to foster balanced participation and strengthen bilateral cooperation.

Recognizing the evolving geopolitical landscape, both India and the EU acknowledge the importance of establishing a strong collaborative framework. The TTC will not only offer political guidance but also provide the necessary structure to effectively implement political decisions, coordinate technical endeavors, and ensure accountability at the political level. This joint effort aims to drive sustainable progress in the economies of both India and the EU.

It is worth noting that the establishment of the Trade and Technology Council is the first such initiative that India has supported with any of its partners. For the EU, it is the second council of its kind following the TTC set up with the US.

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