With the world`s governments increasingly reducing their approach to trade deals amid the coronavirus pandemic, Narendra Modi`s government is also proactively stepping up its efforts to revive India`s trade relations with the rest of the world by revising its free trade agreement or FTA strategy. This includes the revision and renegotiation of existing free trade agreements with ASEAN, Japan and Korea, as well as the conclusion of strengthened trade alliances with the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. On 29 September 2008, at the EU-India Summit in Marseille, the EU and India agreed to intensify their cooperation on nuclear energy and environmental protection and to deepen their strategic partnership. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the rotating president of the EU, said at a joint press conference at the summit that “the EU, as a great country, welcomes India to participate in the development of nuclear energy and added that this clean energy will be useful to the world in dealing with global climate change.” Sarkozy also said the EU and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan had promised to speed up talks on a free trade agreement and expected the deal to be concluded by 2009.  On the other hand, domestic industry must understand that India`s decision to leave RCEP and Prime Minister Modi`s demand for autonomy do not imply comprehensive and unlimited protection. For the sector to grow and become globally competitive, integration into the global value chain is essential. However, this requires pragmatism in the choice of trading partners for the opening of domestic markets, in particular China, which is known for its unfair trading practices. Ultimately, all trade deals are a game of “win some, lose some” and a balanced outcome is what all trading partners should be looking for. “India cannot afford to have the Bombay Club that existed in the early 1990s, it is necessary to stay connected to other countries and that includes trade and economic cooperation,” Sanjaya Baru, an economist and media adviser to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, had previously said. The Bombay Club was made up of major Indian industrialists who, in 1993, supported the process of economic liberalization in order to protect and implement measures for a level playing field. The EU is India`s largest trading partner, with reciprocal trade of $115.6 billion (€101.3 billion) in 2018-19. An investment protection pact will be included in the proposed Free Trade Agreement between India and the EU, to be held in Brussels on 14 April.
There may be natural allies and partners in geopolitics. Not in the economy and international trade/investment. Remember that China is the largest trading partner of more than a hundred countries. Including the largest, the richest in consequences. Our economy must be globally competitive. Integrated into value chains that wind through Asia. Losing your temper at the last minute to join RCEP could be perceived as a lack of self-confidence. If we cannot compete with Laos and Cambodia, there is little hope that free trade agreements can be concluded with the United States and the EU. Outside the EU, Britain will no longer play any role. Further information on the EU-India Strategic Partnership, including in the area of trade and investment, is available in the new EU Strategy for India, adopted on 20 November 2018, as well as in the relevant Council conclusions. “Indeed, today the sub-committee on trade between India and the EU has functioned and there is a movement forward, and as soon as the dates of the meeting are discussed, this mechanism will be tasked with starting negotiations,” he said.
But in this heightened context, where most nations are cautious in their trade strategy, India needs to focus on deep bilateral free trade agreements with trading partners where there are maximum trade leniency, especially the US and the EU. . . .