Merkel heads to India with business on agenda

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India and Germany say they hope to find ways to boost stagnating bilateral trade and economic ties during Chancellor Angela Merkel’s three-day India visit, scheduled to begin Sunday.

Several senior cabinet ministers and a small army of top executives of German companies are accompanying Merkel on the visit, which includes talks in New Delhi and engagements in India’s information technology hub, Bangalore.

Diplomats from both sides have indicated that observers should expect substantive outcomes, as they had already been worked out by both sides.

India is expected to unveil a special single-window clearance mechanism to smooth the path for investments coming from the European Union, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported, citing government sources.

The agenda for the intergovernmental talks led by Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi includes: increased infrastructure modernization; market access for automobiles and pharmaceuticals; defence; aerospace; insurance; and intellectual property rights.

India also wants German involvement in skills training, green energy technology, its smart cities projects and river cleaning.

A free trade agreement with the European Union, which has been in the pipeline since 2007, is also to be discussed, along with a proposal to teach Sanskrit in German schools.

Merkel and Modi are scheduled to participate in a discussion with industry leaders hosted by the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM)in Bangalore on Tuesday and visit German company Bosch’s innovation and skills centres.

Germany is India’s largest trading partner in the European Union and the seventh largest foreign investor in India.

Bilateral trade during 2014 was valued at 16 billion euro (17.9 billion dollars), well below the 20-billion-euro target within a year set by Merkel on her previous visit in 2011.

“While India is growing in significance as a trading partner for Germany, there is clearly a great deal of potential to be realized,” said an Indian Ministry of External Affairs briefing paper.

Merkel and her delegation are scheduled to reach India Sunday night. Her engagements Monday begin with a official reception, including a military salute at the Rashtrapati Bhavan or presidential palace in the Indian capital.

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