The EFTA Parliamentary Committee (EFTA PC) undertook a five-day official visit to India from 17 to 21 April 2023. The aim of the visit was to give political momentum to negotiations on a trade agreement between EFTA and India that started fifteen years ago.
The EFTA delegation, composed of 10 parliamentarians from all EFTA countries, was led by Trine Lise Sundnes (the Norwegian Parliament). In her address to the Indian political authorities responsible for the negotiations, she stressed “We believed fifteen years ago in the merits of fostering EFTA’s trade relations with India, the fifth largest economy in the world characterised by moderate inflation and steady growth rates. We are now even more convinced that the benefits that such an agreement could yield for India and all our countries are even greater today.”
Piyush Goyal, the Minister of Commerce and Industry of India, regretted that it had not been possible to reach an agreement so far. “India and EFTA countries are good friends. I am convinced that it will be possible to make a deal. I hope your visit will help to foster bilateral relations which are already well established.”
“Your visit is extremely important for us. Technicalities are indeed essential, but as politicians, you have the possibility to help move things forward,” commented Shri Sanjay Verma, Secretary for relations with the West at the Ministry for External Affairs.
Om Birla, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha (House of the People, lower house of India’s Parliament), underlined that India and EFTA countries enjoyed deep relations underpinned by shared democratic values. These include the protection and promotion of human rights as well as striving for social and economic progress for all. Referring to the negotiations, he opined “EFTA countries are at the forefront of the decarbonisation of the economy. An agreement would foster cooperation and technology transfer in view of addressing common challenges such as climate change.”
The visit also offered EFTA parliamentarians the opportunity to meet with India’s business organisations, Chambers of Commerce, labour associations, civil society representatives, government agencies, international organisations, and think tanks. At the forefront of the discussions stood the fast-blooming Indian economy against the background of new geopolitical uncertainties. It was underlined that EFTA countries could contribute to linking sustainable economic growth with social development and inclusion.
The EFTA PC concluded its visit in Mumbai, India’s economic and financial centre, to better understand the current business environment for EFTA companies in India and discuss future opportunities and challenges. The added value of a trade agreement was emphasised as it would bring legal certainty and a framework of cooperation to solidify links and potential partnerships for both sides. EFTA parliamentarians used the opportunity to visit the Bombay Stock Exchange and the Mumbai Port Authority.
The EFTA Parliamentary Committee is a forum for parliamentarians from the four Member States: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. The role of the Committee is to advise EFTA Countries on all issues relevant to EFTA such as its relations with trade partners worldwide.
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