Ashton’s visit is seen as preparatory for the EU-India summit to be held in New Delhi in February 2012 where the EU-India Free Trade Agreement will be negotiated.
Mr Karim, who was rapporteur for the EU-India Free Trade Agreement which was adopted in 2009, says:
“This is a positive step for the EU and India and Baroness Ashton’s visit will help to facilitate a much needed conclusion to the EU-India Free Trade Agreement. Negotiations over the comprehensive free trade agreement have started since June 2007 and it is imperative that an agreement is finalised as soon as possible”
The EU is India’s largest trading partner with bilateral trade in 2009-10 standing at $75 billion.
Mr Karim, Member of the European Parliament Friends of India Group, believes the free trade agreement is crucial to help the stagnating economies in the EU. He says:
“There is panic in the European economy right now, and it is crucial for the EU to trade its way out of these turbulent times. The EU-India FTA will enable European businesses to expand their markets and flourish.”
However a conclusion to the FTA is unlikely to be approved by the European Parliament unless India’s human rights abuses in Kashmir are urgently addressed.
Mr Karim, who successfully implemented the inclusion of the Human Rights and Democracy clause in the EU-India FTA in 2009, raised this important issue with Baroness Ashton at the December 2011 plenary debate on Human Rights. Baroness Ashton had promised to speak directly with Mr Karim regarding the matter.