India was one of the first countries to develop diplomatic relations with the EU and extend its hand of friendship

India is working with European Union for a Free Trade Agreement, Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said while addressing Diplomatic & Industry Leadership Session on EU-India Collaborative Economic Growth on Wednesday.

“We are also hopeful of working with the EU towards a FTA, possibly starting with a Preferential Trade Agreement for an early harvest to get faster outcomes,” the Union Minister said, adding the economy is one of the most important pillars of India- European Union (EU) partnership.

India was one of the first countries to develop diplomatic relations with the EU and extend its hand of friendship.

“Our friendship with the people of European Union and the chemistry between PM Modi and various leaders of EU member countries is indeed remarkable. Our partnership surpasses political, innovation and cultural collaboration. We are both very natural partners willing to engage as responsible global citizens to address very pressing global challenges,” he said.

The Minister called for a strengthening 3-R approach for solidifying engagement between EU and India. These 3-R approaches are: Re-energize, Re-invent and Re-orient.

He said that removing barriers to trade between Europe and India is essential to move forward. Goyal said EU is India’s largest trading partner block with about $105 billion trade in goods in 2019. It is also the 2nd largest destination for Indian exports.

“We believe we have to work towards balanced, ambitious and mutually beneficial trade & investment agreements. During the 15th India-EU summit in July 2020, we had adopted the EU-India strategic partnership which will guide our co-operation in the future,” he said.

Goyal said that to combat the COVID crisis, India and Europe worked together whether it was for adequate supply of medicines to different European countries or other goods required to battle coronavirus.

He said that through the lockdown, our Information Technology sector continued to serve businesses in Europe, without any interruption.

“We met all our international obligations and therefore, India is looked upon as a trusted partner of the EU. India can be the trusted partner to move away from single source supply chains and countries can work in partnership with India for robust and sustainable global supply chains. During the pandemic, India never let down any of our friends,” he added.

On the Covid-19, the Union Minister said that when it came to addressing the problem in India, we moved swiftly into lockdown so that we could save lives and as we were able to prepare ourselves to fight COVID.

“We started the unlock process from June. As we move from protecting lives to saving lives & livelihoods, we have evolved as per the emergent situation. We can see the benefits of that in having one of the highest recovery rates in the world and one of the lowest fatality rates. We have one of the highest recovery rates in the world.”

The Minister said that as we have opened up the economy, we are seeing that India is rapidly turning around, restoring its economic situation, rapidly coming back to normalcy.

Recently, we have removed all restrictions on export of N-95 masks and Personal Protective Equipment.

In September, “in the goods and merchandise sector, we have grown by 5.27% over the corresponding period of last year. Power consumption is up by 4.6% in September 2020 year on year. On world trade also, India’s presence is felt. In the goods and merchandise sector, in September 2020, we have grown by 5.27% over the same period last year,” he said.

In September and in the 1st 6 days of October, Railway freight has grown by 15% over the same period last year.

He said that Indian economy is poised not only for normalcy but for growth in the years to come given that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has offered Aatmanirbhar Bharat package for relief to the people and the industry.

The government has embarked on a series of reforms in Agriculture, labour, defence, space technology, mining, energy.