Leaders from India & EU deliberate on EU India FTA & other matters at EU India Leaders conference
Delegates gathered at the European Parliament and AWEX in Brussels during the EU India Leaders Conference 2023 on 5th July
The EU India Leaders Conference 2023, the 28th conference of business meet series, was held on 5th July 2023. The morning session was held at AWEX Wallonia's office in Brussels and the afternoon session at the European Parliament in Brussels.
EU India Leaders Conference 2023 follows the hosting of 27 major business summits in the Europe (24 summits at the British Parliament in London/ other locations in UK and 3 summits at the European Parliament in Brussels/ other locations in Belgium), whereby EICBI & its delivery partners have engaged more than 3370 delegates from 2300 companies.
The morning session at AWEX centered on enlightening the visiting Indian delegation about the promising business opportunities available in Wallonia, offering them comprehensive information to support their endeavors. AWEX (The Walloon Export and Foreign Investment Agency) is a public interest organisation in charge of the promotion of foreign trade and the attraction of foreign investments for Wallonia in Belgium.
The afternoon session held at the European Parliament proved to be a platform for engaging and insightful discussions on crucial topics. These discussions encompassed significant areas such as the ongoing EU-India Free Trade Agreement, collaborative endeavors between India and the EU in the realm of Electric Vehicles and Battery Supply Chains, and the notable progress, as well as the challenges, encountered in EU-India Textile Cooperation. Adding to the event's significance, the esteemed EuropeIndia40 leaders were honored during this session as they received their well-deserved certificates from Mr. Niccolo Rinaldi, Directorate-General for External Policies of the Union/ Head of Unit for Asia, Australia, and New Zealand at the European Parliament. Additionally, attendees witnessed the release of the thought-provoking book titled "Operation Ganga" authored by IAS officer Tarun Pithode, which narrates the inspiring tale of rescuing Indian students from Ukraine. Furthermore, the conference saw the unveiling of the EU India Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Relations Report. This report sheds light on the thriving ICT cooperation between India and the European Union, underscoring the immense potential for further collaboration in this field. These releases contributed to the conference's overall richness and offered valuable insights into various aspects of the India-EU partnership.
AWEX session - PROGRAMME SUMMARY
The morning session at the EU India Leaders Conference began with an informative introduction by Evgeniya Ulkina, the Area Manager India - Inward Investment South Asia & Oceania at AWEX. Ms. Ulkina provided valuable insights into AWEX (Wallonia Export-Investment Agency), shedding light on its role and significance in fostering economic growth and facilitating investment opportunities in Belgium-Wallonia. Her introduction set the stage for the session, highlighting the agency's expertise and commitment to promoting business relations between India and Belgium-Wallonia.
Following Ms. Ulkina's introduction, Sujit S Nair, the Chairman of Europe India Centre for Business and Industry (EICBI), took the stage to provide an overview of EICBI's mission and initiatives. Mr. Nair emphasized the organization's dedication to strengthening bilateral ties between India and the European Union, particularly in the context of fostering business and industry collaborations. His introduction showcased the pivotal role played by EICBI in facilitating dialogues, promoting trade, and driving mutually beneficial partnerships between the two regions. Joel Fernandes, Project and Policy Advisor at
EuroChambres, then presented on the India IP SME Helpdesk, a project funded by the European Commission. Joel elucidated the project's objective of providing free advice on intellectual property to EU companies seeking to invest in India. Given the prominence of intellectual property rights in the EU-India Free Trade Agreement, his presentation offered valuable insights to participants, highlighting the significance of IP protection and fostering innovation in the bilateral trade relationship.
The visiting Indian delegation also had the opportunity to provide an introduction, further enhancing the exchange of ideas and perspectives. Their participation added a significant dimension to the session, showcasing the commitment and interest of Indian stakeholders in strengthening economic ties with Belgium-Wallonia and the wider European Union. Mr Alphi Cartuyvels, Senior Executive of Public and Corporate Affairs at AWEX, then delivered a comprehensive presentation on the economic potential of Belgium-Wallonia. With in-depth knowledge and expertise, Mr. Cartuyvels highlighted the region's attractive investment opportunities and discussed key sectors for collaboration. His presentation provided attendees with valuable insights into the diverse and promising economic landscape of Belgium-Wallonia.
Mr Ujwal Kawale, Head Of Project Management at John Cockerill, shared detailed information and personal experiences of a Belgian company actively involved in business operations in India. His presentation offered valuable insights into the nuances of doing business in India, covering aspects such as market dynamics, challenges, and successful strategies. This firsthand account enriched the session, providing participants with
practical insights and fostering a deeper understanding of cross-border business operations. In a reciprocal manner, Ms Valerie Smits, Head - Innovation Center at PCBL Limited, presented on behalf of an Indian company with a strong presence in Belgium. Her presentation highlighted the company's experiences, achievements, and challenges in conducting business in Belgium, offering participants a unique perspective on Indian companies' engagement in the Belgian market.
The morning session culminated with a networking lunch, providing a conducive environment for further discussions, collaborations, and relationship-building opportunities. This informal setting allowed participants to connect, exchange ideas, and forge valuable connections, fostering a sense of camaraderie and enabling the exploration of potential partnerships.
European Parliament session - PROGRAMME SUMMARY
Mr. Sujit S. Nair, Chairperson of Europe India Centre for Business and Industry (EICBI), warmly greeted the attendees and extended a heartfelt welcome to the EU India Leaders Conference 2023. In his opening remarks, Mr. Nair provided a concise overview of the impactful work undertaken by EICBI, highlighting its commitment to fostering stronger business and industry relations between Europe and India. He then proceeded to outline the agenda for the European Parliament session of the conference, setting the stage for the engaging discussions and fruitful exchanges to come.
Expressing deep gratitude, Mr. Nair took a moment to acknowledge and felicitate the esteemed leaders who played instrumental roles in organizing the EU India Leaders Conference 2023. Their unwavering dedication and efforts were instrumental in bringing together this distinguished gathering, and their commitment to strengthening the bilateral relationship between Europe and India was commendable. The felicitation served as a token of appreciation for their significant contributions, setting a tone of gratitude and respect that resonated throughout the conference.
The first panel discussion kicked off with an engaging panel discussion on "An overview of EU-India trade relationship," expertly moderated by Councillor Aarien Areti, the Vice Chair -Govt relations of EICBI and an esteemed government relations professional. The panel consisted of distinguished speakers who brought diverse perspectives to the table, including Dr. Vijay Mehta, a member of the National Executive of the Foreign Affairs Department - UK & EU, BJP; Mr. B Lakshmi Kantham, Rtd IAS officer/ former District Collector of the Govt of India; Mr. Charles-Antoine Janssen, Managing Partner at KOIS;
Mr. Michael Saxl of European Policy Department of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber; and Mr. Asif Iqbal, President of the Indian Economic Trade Organization. The panel discussion delved into the vast potential for trade and economic cooperation between Europe and India, exploring avenues for enhancing bilateral trade, fostering investment, and establishing sustainable business partnerships. Dr. Vijay Mehta's insights on foreign affairs and diplomacy shed light on the geopolitical dynamics and emphasized the importance of building strong diplomatic ties between Europe and India.
Mr. B Lakshmi Kantham, Mr. Charles-Antoine Janssen, and Mr. Michael Saxl provided valuable perspectives on the regulatory landscape and policy frameworks governing business interactions, equipping attendees with a deeper understanding of the regulatory environment and inspiring new avenues for collaboration. The session was skillfully moderated by Councillor Aarien Areti, who ensured a dynamic and engaging discussion. Some of the thought-provoking topics covered during the panel included the significant milestones in EU-India trade relations, the trade policies that India and the EU should implement to shape their trade relations, the potential impact of a permanent Indian mission in the EU, India's role in transforming the European tech landscape, and the necessary policy changes in India to structure impactful blended finance instruments.
The panel discussion provided valuable insights and set the stage for further exploration of trade and economic opportunities between Europe and India, igniting a spirit of collaboration and partnership among the conference attendees.
The conference continued with a special moment as the EuropeIndia40 leaders were honored and presented with their well-deserved certifications. The EuropeIndia40 initiative, curated by EICBI, annually recognizes the top under-40 leaders in the India-EU and India-UK corridors. EuropeIndia40 leaders are those who contribute to their area of work and create an impact in building stronger connections in the India EU / India UK corridor. The first listing of leaders was released in 2019, and then in subsequent years, the list has been released annually. The 2022 class of EuropeIndia40 leaders, which was initially announced during a virtual ceremony on 9th December, comprises 14 exceptional women and 14 accomplished men, representing 16 different nationalities and hailing from diverse backgrounds. A few of the leaders travelled to Brussels to receive their certificate and participate in the conference.
Amid much anticipation, the EU India Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Relations Report was officially launched. This comprehensive report, spanning approximately 6000 words, delves into the realm of ICT cooperation between India and the European Union (EU), shedding light on the immense prospects for enhanced collaboration. With a particular focus on areas such as Digital Public infrastructure (DPI), semiconductors, and data protection and governance, the report emphasizes the potential synergies between India and the EU in driving innovation and growth.
One of the most definite moments in the India EU corridor over the years has been the Operation Ganga, which resulted in the rescue of Indian students from Ukraine. Operation Ganga stands as a testament to the unwavering commitment of the Indian diaspora in Europe to their fellow citizens in distress. Despite being miles away from their homeland, they rallied together, offering support, resources, and assistance in whatever way they could. Their dedication and tireless efforts bridged the gap between continents, bringing the Indian community in Europe closer than ever to the Government of India and the families affected by the crisis. The conference witnessed the unveiling of a book which chronicles the compelling narrative of the students' plight in war-torn Ukraine and their arduous journeys, as well as the crucial role played by the Government of India and countless Indians in rescuing and assisting them during these challenging times. The book authored by Shri Tarun Kumar Pithode, a distinguished Senior Civil Servant from India. Titled "Operation Ganga: Diary of a Public Servant," serves as a testament to the indomitable spirit of humanity and the power of collective efforts.
These significant milestones in the conference underscored the commitment and dedication of the attendees towards strengthening the bond between Europe and India. The EuropeIndia40 leaders' recognition, the insightful ICT Relations Report, and the impactful book on Operation Ganga showcased the incredible achievements and the potential for future collaboration between the two regions.
The conference proceeded with the enlightening second panel discussion, which centered around the vital subject of India-EU cooperation in the electric vehicle (EV) and battery supply chains. Facilitated by Mr. Tom Moerenhout, a Senior Associate of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), this session featured the expertise of distinguished speakers who shared their insights and perspectives.Ms. Varda Taneja, Vice President of Invest India, along with industry experts such as Ms. Valerie Smits, Head - Innovation Center at PCBL Limited, and Mr. Mohit Tyagi, Technical Affairs Director of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, led a captivating dialogue on the topic.
During the discussion, the panelists addressed thought-provoking questions from the audience, highlighting the significance of Jammu and Kashmir's lithium reserves and their potential impact on the global economy.This session aimed to shed light on various aspects related to India's EV and battery ecosystem and its development in the short-to-medium term. The panelists explored the type of technology partnerships that Indian automobile manufacturers are seeking with EU companies to expedite the electrification of transportation. Additionally, they discussed the investment and industrial policies that can enhance India's appeal for European investors and companies operating in the EV and battery sectors. The potential for cooperation in the realm of plug-in hybrids was also examined, considering its relevance and viability in the Indian context. Furthermore, the session explored avenues for the EU to integrate India more extensively into the global supply chains of critical minerals and battery components.
These insightful discussions showcased the commitment and collective efforts of both India and the EU in advancing sustainable transportation and fostering innovation in the EV and battery sectors. The panelists' expertise and the engagement of the audience contributed to a productive and informative session, paving the way for further collaboration and mutual growth in these critical areas.
The final panediscussion revolved around the exciting prospects of EU-India textile cooperation and the potential for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two regions. Skillfully moderated by Mr. Pratik Gadia, Founder and CEO of The Yarn Bazaar, and Dr. Amit Lath, CEO of the Sharda Group of Companies, this session brought together esteemed panelists who shared valuable insights. The panelists included Mr. Dirk Vantghem, Director General of EURATEX, Mr. Sanjay Jain, Chairman of the ICC Textile Committee, Dr. Lalit Shyaam Tekchandani, Co-founder of buffering.in and Mr. Bhadresh Dodhia, Chairman of the Synthetic & Rayon Textile Export Promotion Council. Throughout the discussion, the panelists explored the immense opportunities for collaboration and growth in the textile sector between Europe and India. The conversation focused on key points such as the role of an EU-India FTA in enhancing cooperation between textile companies, the challenges associated with negotiations, and the need to address issues related to tariff reduction, rules of origin, and non-tariff barriers. Furthermore, the discussion delved into the establishment of policies and incentives that promote technology transfer and research collaboration in textile design and innovation, thereby fostering a vibrant ecosystem of cross-border innovation. Experts discussed the inclusion of a zero-duty policy for textiles within the proposed FTA to foster mutual growth.
Further, industry leaders emphasized that a policy alignment in industry-related laws will help create a level playing field and reduce discrepancies. The panelists also examined how joint design and innovation initiatives between India and European textile associations can facilitate technology transfer, skill development, and knowledge exchange, ultimately driving sustainable growth, job creation, and global competitiveness for both regions. The importance of quality control and assurance throughout the textile supply chain was highlighted, as it contributes to building a reputation of reliability and excellence for Indian and European textile manufacturers in the global market. The discussion concluded with insights into how collaboration between Indian and European textile manufacturers, supported by rigorous quality standards and certifications, can enhance product consistency and reliability, enabling both regions to capture a larger share of the global textile market. These discussions underscored the significance of EU-India textile cooperation. The expertise and perspectives shared by the panelists provided valuable insights into the opportunities and challenges involved, setting the stage for further collaboration and growth in the textile industry. The sessions were moderated by Mr Abhishek Tripathi, EICBI Vice Chair for Events