India, EU to hold summit Nov 30, fast-track trade talks


New Delhi : India and the 27-nation European Union will hold the annual summit meeting here Nov 30 as they intensify their negotiations to wrap up a trade and investment pact before the end of 2008.

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An EU-India business summit will be held a day before the summit, Portuguese ambassador Luis Filipe Castro Mendes, whose country took over the rotating presidency of the EU early this month, told reporters here.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, who is also president of the European Council, will be representing EU at the summit. This will also be the first visit of a Portuguese prime minister to India in last three decades.

The summit will deal with key global issues like climate change and focus on expanding bilateral cooperation between India and the EU, New Delhi's largest trading partner, in the fields of science and technology, energy efficiency and renewable energy.

India Thursday cleared funds for joining the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project, in which the EU is a key partner, at an estimated cost of over half a billion dollars.

Speaking about renewed interest in India, the Portuguese envoy said the EU is now focussing "south and eastwards" with BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies occupying greater importance in Europe's external relations.

India's multi-faceted ties with the EU are set to grow further with the EU council approving the mandate for negotiations for a broadbased trade and investment pact between the two sides.

"The negotiations started last week in Brussels. The next round will be held in October in New Delhi," said the EU's envoy to India Francisco da Camara Santa Clara Gomes who was also present at the press conference.

"We need to accelerate the negotiations. We expect negotiations to be finalised by the end of 2008," Gomes said.

"We are most happy to observe a growing interest in India to study the European integration process and we will always be ready to share our experience with other regional processes, such as SAARC," the Portuguese ambassador said.

The EU participated as an observer for the first time in the 14th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit.