PM seeks German support on India-EU trade pact

 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday said he will seek Germany's support for an early conclusion of a balanced trade and investment agreement with the European Union (EU) during his three-day visit to Berlin.

"I will seek Chancellor (Angela) Merkel's support for an early conclusion of an India-EU broad-based trade and investment agreement," the prime minister, whose delegation includes five cabinet ministers, said in a statement, ahead of his departure to Berlin.

"I will also propose that Europe keeps its doors open to Indian investors and professionals," he added.

The prime minister is visiting Germany on the invitation of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Manmohan Singh said he was hopeful of signing a number of agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoUs) in areas like infrastructure, manufacturing, science and technology, higher education, professional training, and clean and renewable energy.

"I intend to seek greater trade and investment ties with Germany as we continue to take steps to boost domestic investment, attract foreign investors, and spur the economy back to its long term growth potential of 8 percent," the prime minister said.

He said Germany plays a key role in the global economy and, in particular, in stability and growth in the Euro Zone, which has an important bearing on the Indian economy.

"At a time of persisting global economic weakness and uncertainty, I look forward to discussing these issues with Chancellor Merkel," the prime minister said.

Both sides would also discuss their "shared interests in United Nations Security Council reforms and a broad range of global developments, including with respect to Afghanistan, West Asia and the Asia Pacific region".

India, Germany, Brazil and Japan comprise the G4 nations which have called for expanding the permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council.

He said he would call on German President Joachim Gauck and also participate in the closing ceremony of the 'Days of India in Germany', which was organized to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Germany.

"India remains committed to a close, cooperative and mutually beneficial partnership with Germany," the prime minister said.

The prime minister is to co-chair the second round of India-Germany Inter-Governmental Consultations. This is his third bilateral visit to Germany. The consultations were launched in 2011 to discuss all possible areas of cooperation.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah, Human Resource Development Minister M.M. Pallam Raju and Science and Technology Minister S. Jaipal Reddy are part of the delegation.

The prime minister's engagements include a cultural ceremony to bring to a close the "Days of India in Germany" that was launched in May last year to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Germany is India's largest trading partner in Europe and bilateral trade with the country had registered an 18.4 percent increase to touch 18.37 billion euro in 2011. Germany is also the eighth largest foreign direct investor in India.

The EU as a bloc of 27 countries, on the other hand, is India's largest trading partner, with bilateral trade increasing in 2011 by 17.2 percent to reach 79.7 billion euro from 68.02 billion euro in 2010.