New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will undertake visit to two important European Union countries --Germany and Belgium-- from tomorrow where he will have discussions on enhancing common approaches to address new and emerging challenges apart from ways to push long-pending India-EU trade accord.
Khurshid will be holding discussions with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and would call on the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel during his two-day visit on 28-29 January.
Germany is India's largest trading partner in Europe. Indo-German bilateral trade has registered an increase of 20.8 per cent to reach Euro 15.18 billion during Jan-Oct 2011. Indian exports grew over 25.93 per cent over the same period of 2010 to reach Euro 6.37 billion, while its imports registered an increase of over 17.39 per cent to reach Euro 8.81 billion. The trade surplus is in favour of Germany of about Euro 2.44 billion.
The two countries also have several institutionalised arrangements like a Strategic Dialogue, Foreign Office Consultations, Joint Commission on Industrial and Economic Cooperation, Defence Committee Dialogue and a Joint Working Group on Counter- Terrorism to discuss various bilateral and global issues of interest.
During his visit, Khurshid is expected to review the status of talks between India and EU on Free Trade Agreement which were launched in June 2007 and have been witnessing differences over the level of custom duty cut on some exports like autos and wines to India and visa to Indian professionals to EU.
Khurshid, who will be in Belgium on January 30-31, will hold bilateral discussions with Belgian Deputy Prime Minister
and Foreign Minister Didier Reynders and with the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, Baroness Catherine Ashton. "Discussions will focus on bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest," Ministry of External Affairs said.
India and the European Union are bound by strong and friendly ties. India was amongst the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with the European Economic Community.
"Today, EU is one of our largest trading partners, and an important source of technology and home to a large and
influential Indian Diaspora. Both sides endeavour to develop common approaches to address new and emerging challenges," it said.