Brussels/London | India and the EU have said they share fundamental values and have a common interest in ensuring security, prosperity and sustainable development in a multi-polar world and are committed to deepening their partnership to accelerate the growth and deployment of advanced digital technologies that will benefit both societies.
In a joint statement after the first meeting of the India-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC), the two sides said they also face a challenging and volatile global political, economic and security landscape.
"In that context, both sides emphasised the importance of the rules-based international order and full respect for the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, transparency, and peaceful resolution of disputes," the statement said.
The meeting, which concluded in Brussels on Tuesday evening, was co-chaired by Executive Vice-Presidents Margrethe Vestager and Valdis Dombrovskis on the EU side, and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, and Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister for Skill Development and IT on the Indian side.
It ended in a joint statement which called for an annual TTC meeting alternating between the EU and India, with the next meeting planned for early 2024 in India.
The two sides said the rapid changes in the world's geopolitical environment highlight the need for an even deeper strategic partnership between India and the European Union.
"As vibrant democracies, open market economies and pluralistic societies India and the European Union share fundamental values and have a common interest in ensuring security, prosperity and sustainable development in a multi-polar world," it said.
"India and the European Union are committed to deepening their partnership and leveraging their respective strengths to accelerate the development and deployment of advanced digital technologies that will benefit both societies and promote global progress in line with our common values," it said.
It said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EU Commission, had agreed to set up the TTC as a key coordination platform to address key trade, trusted technology and security challenges, to promote a human-centric approach to the digital transformation, and to deepen their bilateral relationship in these fields.
The choice of this format reflects the strategic nature both sides attach to their bilateral relationship, the desire to guide their cooperation towards tangible results and the geopolitical significance of their trade and technology links in the context of a more contested and rapidly evolving international environment.
They reaffirm that international rules-based approaches to trade, technology, and innovation that are founded on solid democratic principles and values can improve the lives of their citizens and generate greater prosperity for people around the world.
An EU statement said: “The TTC is a key forum to deepen the strategic partnership on trade and technology between the two partners." “Geostrategic challenges have reinforced the EU and India's common interest in ensuring security, prosperity and sustainable development based on shared values. The TTC will help increase EU-India bilateral trade, which is at historical highs, with EURO 120 billion worth of goods traded in 2022. In 2022, EURO 17 billion of digital products and services were traded,” it said.
The EU described the two-way trade relationship as a “robust” one, with the 27-member economic union being India's second-largest trading partner and India being the EU's tenth-largest trading partner.
“Work under the TTC will proceed in parallel to the ongoing negotiations for comprehensive and ambitious agreements on trade, investment protection and geographical indications, which seek to maximise our considerable – yet largely untapped – trade and investment potential,” the EU said.
“Both partners also committed to seek cooperation on trustworthy Artificial Intelligence and coordinate their policies with regards to the strategic semiconductors sector through a dedicated memorandum of understanding…They will enhance the interoperability of their respective digital public infrastructures and promote secure, privacy-preserving solutions to the benefit of developing countries,” it said.
As part of the TTC discussions this week, the EU said it had been agreed to deepen common work on resilient value chains, work to resolve bilateral market access issues and exchange information on each other's mechanisms on foreign direct investment screening. Both sides also agreed to address global and multilateral trade issues, with particular emphasis on the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and engagement on carbon border measures.
A focus on water management, including plastic litter and waste to hydrogen; recycling of batteries for e-vehicles and standards through pre-normative research and strengthening the role of start-ups and building skills and capacity were among the topics covered.
The EU said it will cooperate with India on quantum and high-performance computing research and development projects to help address challenges such as climate change and natural disasters and improve healthcare via personalised medicine.
Their joint statement said the India – EU TTC Working Group 1 on Strategic Technologies, Digital Governance and Digital Connectivity defined priority areas and outlined the next steps.
India and the European Union will undertake Quantum and High-Performance Computing research and development projects that could address climate change, natural hazards, bio-informatics, bio-molecular research, and drug development. In addition, India and the European Union will coordinate within the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) and explore bilateral cooperation on trustworthy and responsible Artificial Intelligence, including in research and innovation, the statement said.
The two sides will coordinate their policies with regard to the strategic semiconductor sector, with the aim of concluding a Memorandum of Understanding by September 2023, it said.
India and the European Union will also work towards bridging the digital skills gap, explore Mutual Recognition of certifications and make progress on the promotion of skilled professionals and exchange of talent. They will also enhance cooperation on IT and Telecoms Standardisation with a particular focus on promoting interoperable standards, the statement said.
"Both sides recognised the importance of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) for the development of open and inclusive digital economies and digital societies," according to the statement.
India and the European Union have set ambitious goals of achieving net zero emissions by 2070 and 2050 respectively. They have also made commitments to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 and to promote Circular Economy.
"Achieving these targets and objectives will require significant investments in new clean technologies as well as increased research and innovation efforts," the statement said.
It highlighted three focus areas -- renewable and low carbon hydrogen; batteries for electrical vehicles and standards.
"Under these focus areas, India and the EU will start with implementing the joint wastewater treatment and management projects to facilitate their market uptake; work on wastewater to energy and on waste to Hydrogen; undertake gap analysis on how to tackle marine plastic litter/pollution; share knowledge on circularity aspects of batteries and recover raw materials; and develop standards that can ensure interoperability, including for Renewable and Low Carbon Hydrogen," it said.
"By investing in these areas, India and the European Union will seek to drive innovation and promote sustainable development in a way that helps meet their respective climate targets, strengthening the role of start-ups, and building skills and capacity," it added.
Working Group 3 on Trade, Investment and Resilient Value Chains aims to deepen bilateral cooperation in specific areas of mutual interest. They complement the ongoing negotiations for legally binding agreements on trade, investment protection and geographical indications, that proceed on a separate track. The sides will also intensify their engagement to address the issues that emerge in the implementation of carbon border measures, the statement said.
India and the European Union underlined the importance of advancing across all Working Groups established under the TTC.
The EU and India set up the TTC as a coordination platform to address key trade, trusted technology and security challenges and the ministerial meeting on Tuesday relied on the work of three Working Groups, which will continue to meet regularly ahead of the next ministerial-level meet in India.
The Working Groups cover: Strategic technologies, digital governance and digital connectivity; Green and clean energy technologies; and Trade, investment and resilient value chains. The ministerial meeting marks the second bilateral forum for the EU and forms part of the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.