Piyush Goyal 20190924
Piyush Goyal, Indian Trade Minister Image Credit: Supplied

New Delhi: India and four European countries signed a free trade pact on Sunday that will create one million jobs in the South Asian country in 15 years, Indian Trade Minister Piyush Goyal said.

“It is the first-time in history of the world that we are inking an agreement with a binding commitment to invest $100 billion in India from the EFTA countries,” Goyal said Sunday at a signing ceremony. “Investor confidence in India is at an all-time high.

The European bloc comprises Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, none of which are members of the European Union.

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“India-Norway bilateral relations are stronger than ever before,” Jan Christian Vestre, Norway’s trade and industry minister, said.

The economic pact has been 16 years in making and will be first-of-its kind where India will secure investment commitments under the agreement, Bloomberg earlier reported, adding to India’s appeal as one of the most sought-after market for investors looking to diversify supply chains.

The European nations will in return get easier access for its processed food and beverages, electrical machinery, and to a potential market of 1.4 billion people in one of the world’s fastest-growing major economies.

India offers “immense opportunity for trade and investment,” Swiss Economy Minister Guy Parmelin said at the ceremony, adding that the South Asian nation would gain access to technology through the deal.

The agreement will also benefit the pharmaceutical and medical devices industry of the bloc. Indian exporters will get liberalized access for their rice and other products to these European nations while Indian professionals will be able to move more smoothly under the arrangement.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has accelerated trade talks with major trading partners to take advantage of the changing global world order. It is also in talks with the UK, European Union and Australia for free trade pacts to boost local manufacturing and create jobs. Negotiations with the UK are in the final stages.

Among the EFTA bloc, Switzerland is India’s largest commercial partner and bilateral trade stood at $17.14 billion in the 2022-23 fiscal year, out of $18.66 billion with the whole group.