Keen to have bilateral investment treaty with India, says Netherlands deputy PM

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The Hague: The Netherlands is keen to have a bilateral investment protection agreement with India and is fully backing the proposed India -EU free trade agreement (FTA), Dutch deputy prime minister Wopke Hoekstra said at a briefing at his office.

Hoekstra, who is also the Netherland’s minister of foreign affairs, said that signing bilateral investment protection deals could take longer, even if everyone is working very diligently on it but he would personally invest his time on this.

“I have been a Minister of Finance for four years and therefore, I know from experience that any type of treaty, even amongst the closest of friends, sometimes does take quite a while to get to change and to improve. What I would very much hope, and in which I would personally really want to invest and the same is true for the whole cabinet here, is to make sure that we create these types of arrangements with India,” said the minister.

India had in 2015 terminated bilateral investment treaties with 73 countries after a series of disputes went into arbitration under these treaties, including some under a treaty with the Netherlands, a major source of FDI for India. However, a few were signed based on the new model text that India brought out in 2015. These are with Brazil, Kyrgyz Republic, Belarus and Taipei, as per information available from the finance ministry.

Bilateral investment protection deals give foreign investors confidence in making investment decisions. A parliamentary panel which studied the renegotiations last year recommended pre-arbitration consultations or negotiations to prevent disputes entering arbitration. In a dispute with Cairn Energy Plc., India opted for settlement after an arbitration panel awarded damages to the company.

Hoekstra said the Netherlands favoured the FTA India is negotiating with the European Union (EU). “An EU Free Trade Agreement is something we would clearly support. We are very impressed by the capabilities India has in terms of trade…There is a lot that we could do together in that realm and to that I am very much looking forward to,” the minister said.

An email-sent to the finance ministry seeking comments on Wednesday remained unanswered at thee time of publishing.

“We would very much support a free trade agreement between the EU and India because our assessment is that it would give an additional impulse to our already excellent bilateral relationship. Our business relationship is of tremendous importance, but I think a broader EU-India FTA would also provide more opportunities for India towards the whole European continent. And if there’s anything that I could do, that the Dutch government could do, in facilitating that, we would, of course, be delighted to do so. These is a truly win-win,” said the minister.

The Netherlands is the second largest exporter of agriculture produce after the US.

 (The writer is in the Netherlands on the invitation of the Netherlands government)

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