India, EU to discuss agenda for summit

India, EU to discuss agenda for summit

Ahead of India's summit with the European Union next month, EU's chief diplomat Catherine Ashton comes here Sunday on a four-day visit during which the two sides are expected to iron out differences over a proposed free trade area pact and discuss a host of global issues.

Ashton will hold talks with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna Monday on a cluster of bilateral, regional and global issues, including trade and investment, counter-terrorism and climate change.

The discussions will help firm up the agenda for the India-EU summit that New Delhi will host next month.

With the financial crisis in the eurozone showing no sign of abating, the two sides are expected to discuss the issue and explore how emerging economies like India can help the EU tide over the crisis.

The two countries will be focusing their discussions on a broad-based trade and investment agreement that is bogged down in differences and hard bargaining over issues like tariff barriers and the bid by the EU to link trade with environment.

India has voiced reservations over non-trade issues as it feels it's a ploy of developed countries to undercut its competitiveness.

The EU has lobbied hard for steep reduction in tariffs for export of its automobiles, wines and spirits to India. However, the Indian automobile industry is fiercely opposed to any kind of duty cuts and argued that it will hurt domestic manufacturers.

The EU has also been India pushing India to open financial sectors such as banking and insurance, postal, legal, accounting, maritime as well as security and the retail sector.

India and the EU have been negotiating Broad-based Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) for around five years. The EU is India's largest trading partner, with  bilateral trade estimated to be over $75 billion.