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Trade, energy, climate change on agenda of India-EU summit

Leaders of the European Union and India began talks Friday on trade, energy, climate change besides regional issues at their eighth summit in the Indian capital.

The Indian side is headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and includes Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath and National Security Advisor MK Narayanan. „The summit is part of India’s ongoing dialogue with the EU for discussions on areas of mutual interest and to build on the strategic partnership,” an Indian Foreign Ministry release said. EU is represented by Portuguese PM Jose Socrates and Jose Manuel Barroso President of the European Commission. European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and Portuguese Foreign Affairs Minister Joao Gomes Cravinho are also participating in the summit.

The two sides are expected to sign a five-year renewal of the cooperation agreement in science and technology as well as a development cooperation agreement for 2007-2010 amounting to €260 million (about $380 million) covering health, education, civil aviation and cooperation in education and culture. The two sides would engage in a comprehensive review of bilateral relations at the meeting including a joint action plan and strategic partnership reached at earlier summits, EU officials said. Trade would be the focus of the talks, Daniele Smadja, head of the EU Commission delegation to India, said. Two-way trade between India and the EU had topped €46 billion ($68 billion) in 2006, according to Indian estimates.

The two sides were likely to reach an agreement on a comprehensive bilateral trade pact by 2008, Mandelson and Nath said during the EU-India business summit Thursday. Top business leaders attended the one-day business summit, which usually precedes the political meet. „The EU continues to be India’s foremost trading partner and biggest foreign investor. We want EU-India trade to reach its potential. And the conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement will certainly boost bilateral trade,” Barosso said on the eve of the summit. „Our political dialogue now ranges from energy and environment to transport and renewable energy. By joining efforts, the EU and India, the world’s two largest democracies, can have a great impact in addressing global challenges such as peace and security, governance and climate change,” he added. The EU leaders began their day by laying wreaths at the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, apostle of peace and leader of India’s freedom movement.

After the summit they are scheduled to call on Indian President Pratibha Patil and hold talks with Sonia Gandhi, chairperson of India’s governing United Progressive Alliance. The Portuguese premier is also scheduled to hold a separate bilateral meeting with his Indian counterpart and delegation-level talks on Saturday. (m&