Germany, India sign wide-ranging agreements to deepen bilateral ties

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi are seen before making a joint statement at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed wide-ranging agreements in New Delhi on Friday to deepen strategic cooperation and exchanged notes on ways to boost bilateral trade.

Merkel, accompanied by several cabinet colleagues and a business delegation, is in India on a three-day visit that began on Thursday.

“We’re encouraging our private sectors to give an impetus to our growing bilateral trade and Chancellor Merkel and I will meet some of the top business and industry leaders,” Modi told a joint news conference with the German leader.

“We’re encouraging our private sectors to give an impetus to our growing bilateral trade and Chancellor Merkel and I will meet some of the top business and industry leaders,” Modi said.

Bilateral trade between the two countries rose to $24.06 billion (18.5 billion pounds) in the 2018/19 fiscal year ending in March from $22 billion the previous year, while German companies have invested nearly $12 billion in India since 2000.

Germany is India’s largest trading partner in Europe and more than 1,700 German companies are operating in India.

The agreements struck on strategic cooperation, included agriculture, cyber security and artificial intelligence. Modi said the two countries would also bolster ties to combat “terrorism and extremism”.

Germany and India also agreed to join hands in the area of education.

“As many as 20,000 Indian nationals are studying in Germany and we would like to see more,” Merkel said.

Although Merkel and Modi didn’t mention anything about restarting talks on finalising a free trade agreement between India and the European Union, sources earlier said the two leaders could take up the trade deal.

Eric Schweitzer, president of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK), earlier said India had enormous potential but there has been uncertainty among companies after an investment protection agreement between the two countries ended in 2016.

“Small and medium-sized German companies stand in a labyrinth of regulations and shy away from larger investment. Negotiations should restart and Merkel’s visit could help,” he said.

VDA, Germany’s car industry association that counts automakers like Volkswagen <VOWG_p.DE>, Daimler <DAIGn.DE>, BMW <BMWG.DE> and Audi <NSUG.DE> as members, also wanted India to restart the FTA talks.

Daimler’s Mercedes-Bez, BMW and Audi dominate India’s luxury car market.

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