Merkel ends India trip, focuses on trade deal, investment

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for further development of economic ties with India as she wrapped up her two-day trip to New Delhi.

There were opportunities for German investment in Indian infrastructure and transport projects, such as the expansion of the high-speed train network, Merkel told an audience at the Indo-German Chambers of Commerce.

She also made a fresh appeal for India and the European Union to restart talks on a free trade pact.

Negotiations started in 2007 but broke down in 2012.

Germany, which is India’s biggest EU trade partner, has long called for an agreement.

Germany exports mainly machinery, electrical technology, metal goods, chemicals, vehicles and vehicle parts to India.

Trade volumes have risen over recent years to reach 18.2 billion euros ($20.3 billion) last year.

Merkel said she sees the potential for greater cooperation in areas like health, agriculture, technology and climate change but that India needs to cut bureaucratic red tape that holds back foreign investment.

She also said that her government wants to make it easier for skilled Indian workers to come to Germany.

As an example of their economic ties, Merkel pointed to Berlin’s environmentally friendly investments in India, including funds from Germany used to replace hundreds of diesel buses with electric versions for use in public transport.

“If you look at the air quality in Delhi yesterday, there are certainly some good reasons why more electric buses are needed,’’ she said.

A public health emergency was declared in New Delhi on Friday as the region struggles with alarmingly high levels of air pollution.

During a ceremonial welcome at the presidential palace on Friday morning, Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not wear any respiratory protection despite the visible smog around them.

Suzan O