The EU-India Trade and Technology Council: opportunities and challenges ahead


The EU and India have released a Trade and Technology Council (TTC), a bilateral discussion board to prioritise their partnership by means of cooperation in digital governance, eco-friendly and clean up vitality technologies, and resilient price chains, trade and investment decision. The Council is a response to escalating wonderful-electrical power competition and a drive on each sides to bolster their respective strategic autonomies, with the probable to have a significant affect on the EU’s ambitions in the political, financial and know-how spheres.

In a context of growing fantastic-energy competition, the EU and India are aiming to mutually bolster their respective strategic autonomies. 10 months just after its announcement in April 2022, Brussels and New Delhi have introduced the Trade and Technologies Council (TTC), highlighting their joint commitment to prioritise their partnership through a strategic engagement in trade and technologies. The bilateral discussion board features three doing the job groups on cooperation in electronic governance and connectivity, environmentally friendly and clear power systems, and resilient value chains, trade and expense.

The EU-India TTC opens up a new avenue for cooperation, and in convert involves a quantity of challenges and chances. At a time when the worldwide governance of technology is being formed by implies of advert hoc coalitions and platforms for dialogue –but not still by way of international organisations, with the individual exception to some extent of the ITU, the UN company devoted to ICT governance–, this system is the second of its variety initiated by the EU, the EU-US TTC staying the very first. It joins the expanding list of regional-primarily based initiatives that the EU is launching to tackle the effect of technology on safety, financial(s) and values, these kinds of as the Digital Partnerships with Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore, the Joint Commitment to Digital Transformation in the EU-Africa Joint Vision for 2030, and the future EU-LAC Electronic Alliance, among the others. It falls back on the plans envisioned by the to start with-at any time technique to EU electronic diplomacy, released a bare 6 months back.

On the Indian facet, the TTC is not the to start with institutionalised platform either. The Quad Initiative, shaped by Australia, India, Japan and the US, is the major multilateral team addressing the strategic orientation of trade and know-how in the Indo-Pacific. Furthermore, the Biden Administration not long ago introduced a amount of cooperation initiatives, like quantum computing, artificial intelligence, 5G wi-fi networks and semiconductors. The Initiative on Critical and Rising Technologies is the most recent shift by the US to produce alignments and to counter China.

The China variable in the EU-India TTC

It is the China component that points out the EU’s impetus to cooperate with associates on a bilateral foundation and not tri-laterally or multilaterally. The EU-US TTC’s do the job has so far centered generally on information and facts sharing, joint mapping, defining very best methods, pinpointing risks and exploring choices for nearer cooperation. One particular of the principal US aims at the early stage was to leverage the TTC as a house for dialogue on a frequent watch vis-à-vis China, when for the EU the TTC is not about China.

That is why the EU has entered a new section of bilateral cooperation with India on trade and technologies. The crucial fundamental motives guiding a reignited cooperation involving the two is the mirror result from Sino-Russian alignment: though the EU seeks to decrease its reliance on China (while without having an anti-China impulse), India aims to lower its dependence on Russia and China.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the structural competition concerning the US and China have even further driven the EU to glimpse at the earth via a geopolitical lens, significantly on trade, and it is now making use of a much more realist(ic) assessment of weaponised interdependence. The EU’s open up strategic autonomy is an expression of the change in the imagining driving European guidelines. That is the rationale why we are witnessing the EU arming alone with a toolbox that is expanding by the working day in purchase to deal with economic distortions and protection disruptions to supply chains and strategic technologies from China –but not only–.

On the other hand, whilst doing the job on minimizing its dependence on Russia from the armed service stage of view, India has not but condemned in overtly express phrases the invasion of Ukraine. However, with China posing a armed service obstacle at its borders and an undesirable armed forces dependence on Russia, New Delhi is not in the most cozy of conditions. These kinds of a quandary only gives a even more incentive for India to improve its engagement with the EU.

Offered the common development toward lowering dependence on China in significant sectors, India has executed several technological innovation crackdowns on the state given that at least 2020. It has either banned Chinese applications and products and services or subjected Chinese producers to investigations from India’s Enforcement Directorate, which has seized bank accounts or accused numerous providers of tax evasion. Segment 69 of the Indian Info Technology Act permits the Indian central govt to block entry –by invoking unexpected emergency powers– to any area or app that is deemed to be a menace to nationwide protection.

Also, because of to US sanctions and tighter export regulate regimes on Chinese semiconductors and other important technologies, India has presented by itself as the different for the spot of multinationals such as Apple and Samsung, to diversify its supply chains away from China. India has been investing in its homegrown technologies sector to construct up its have economic and protection statecraft many thanks to both governmental support and community-private schemes in frontier-technological innovation improvement.

Alternatives and the long term forward

In basic, Europe still has a small consciousness of the menace China poses for India and, much more importantly, the dynamics of Sino-Indian relations. The increased the channels of cooperation with India, the larger the EU’s comprehension of the Indian posture and the prospects to be experienced by engaging a lot more broadly in the Indo-Pacific location.

Moreover, there are a wide range of attitudes and positions throughout the EU as to how to technique China, technological innovation and trade plan from a protection and geopolitical perspective. The Netherlands’ opportunity conclusion to be a part of the US semiconductor export controls on China, together with Japan, prove the extent to which there is a need for the EU as a bloc to agree on widespread views on significant concerns. This will be paramount for the 1st and 3rd working teams of the EU-India TTC, the previous focusing on regions of mutual curiosity this kind of as AI, 5G/6G, significant general performance and quantum computing, semiconductors, cloud devices, and cybersecurity, and the latter on efforts to offer chain resilience, entry to significant components, and trade barrier and world trade problem resolution.

Nonetheless, there are quite a few possibilities for the EU-India TTC. Initial, the forum’s institutionalisation will enable both equally sides to bolster a strategic amount of cooperation by combining prolonged-term coverage initiatives with small-term urgent responses when deemed necessary.

Ministerial conferences will consider put at the very least after a yr –the very first is prepared to be held in spring 2023–.

2nd, it is very likely for the EU to purpose to preserve the TTCs with the US and India as independent boards, but it will be crucial to continue to keep an eye on doable cross-alignments at the doing work and plan degrees –not so considerably at the political and diplomatic levels, given the distinctive intensities and narratives vis-à-vis China–.

Third, the EU-India TTC could possibly guide to the diversification of partners in the Indo-Pacific region. Though the EU has independent digital exterior policy agendas with Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore by usually means of bilateral Electronic Partnership Agreements, it is true that the sum of these initiatives may possibly lead to some rapprochement, at least at the operating level of information and facts sharing, joint mapping and the definition of greatest tactics, as is currently the case with the EU-US TTC.

India possesses all the ingredients to have a significant influence on the EU’s scope to raise and fortify its political, economic and know-how ambitions. The extent of the affect will depend on how get the job done proceeds at the TTC and how it will translate into the EU-India Free of charge Trade Settlement, whose negotiations have been relaunched previous 12 months immediately after a nine-calendar year hiatus. This suggests it will require to commence with two forms of deliverables: low-hanging fruits, but also ambitious concepts that guidance each individual side’s aims in the TTC.

The TTC will take the dialogue on more powerful EU-India relations to a even further stage, where the thought of strategic autonomy in a speedily unstable geopolitical environment acquires a transcendental which means for both of those sides in the several years in advance. They will find to greatly enhance their respective strategic autonomies and economic resilience in mild of decoupling narratives that alter the planet economic system and underscore a increasing strategic alignment.

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Graphic: PM conference the President of the European Commission, Ms. Ursula Von Der Leyen, in New Delhi on April 25, 2022. Photo: Key Minister’s Workplace, GODL-India vía Wikimedia Commons.