‘Committed to invest $100 billion in India’ Norwegian Minister on EFTA pact


The free trade agreement between India and EFTA features an ambitious investment target of $100 billion, but Norwegian Minister Jan Christian Vestre said they are committed to fulfilling it.

In Short

  • EFTA commits to invest $100 billion in India, creating one million jobs over 15 years
  • Ease of doing business is a core focus of the agreement
  • Free trade deal with EFTA could influence India’s future trade negotiations

In the historic trade agreement between India and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Norway’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Jan Christian Vestre, spoke to India Today and detailed out the ambitious investment pledges and the strategic emphasis on ease of doing business.

His insights offer a view on what is driving this significant international pact, highlighting its potential as a model for future trade agreements, including those with the European Union.

A Visionary Investment Pledge

The agreement features an ambitious investment target, with EFTA committing to invest $100 billion in India, which Vestre discusses in detail.

“We have a very ambitious goal,” he states, acknowledging the extensive analytical groundwork that substantiates this commitment.

He elaborates on the preparation, “We spent quite a lot of time on defining that goal… And when we put everything into the Excel spreadsheet, these are the numbers we got.” This investment is envisioned to create one million direct jobs in India over the next 15 years, showcasing the deal’s profound economic implications.

“So they are ambitious. It will require a lot. We have to remove obstacles. We have to remove challenges. We have to sit down together to do matchmaking and promotion. There will be established an office here in India promoting EFTA investments and so on. But I’m pretty sure that we will get there,” he adds.

Regarding the investment pledge, Minister Vestre provided a detailed explanation of the target set within the agreement: “Yeah, I mean, we know, we do know from history that increased trade means increased investment and increased job creation.

And that’s simply because we need to have you know the right business climate the foundation the framework conditions for our companies to see that this is a predictable market where they can invest where they can grow and where they can have a return on their investment so the agreement simply is what we need to make this happen our commitment is to promote investments in India promote job.”

Ease of Doing Business: A Core Focus

Vestre emphasizes the critical importance of creating a conducive environment for businesses as a key aspect of the agreement.

“Ease of doing business is maybe the most important thing,” he asserts, highlighting the necessity for a predictable and transparent regulatory framework to attract and secure foreign investment, which is vital for the agreement’s success and the realization of its ambitious targets.

Navigating Geopolitical Sensitivities

When addressing the complex issue of disputed territories, notably Kashmir, Vestre remarks on the relative ease with which these discussions were navigated. “To be honest, that was not very difficult,” he comments, illustrating the agreement’s pragmatic approach to such sensitivities.

He says, “The agreement makes it very clear now that it refers to the domestic legislation here in India and also that it should be by international law so I don’t think that will be any problem now or in the years to come we have had more difficult issues than that, I can admit.”

The treaty, designed to align with India’s legal framework and adhere to international law, showcases a diplomatic tact in handling potentially contentious issues, ensuring a focus on mutual economic benefits.

Setting a Benchmark for Future Agreements, With EU & Others

The India-EFTA agreement could potentially influence India’s forthcoming trade negotiations, especially with the European Union. Vestre reflects on the broader implications of the agreement, suggesting it could serve as an inspiration for other trade pacts.

“I believe also, you know, the world today, we see less trust in free trade…that’s a new way of doing trade policy,” he notes, indicating the potential of this agreement to inform future trade strategies and policies.

With its ambitious investment pledge and a strong emphasis on ease of doing business, the agreement according to the Norwegian Minister not only aims to bolster India’s economic landscape but also sets a precedent for future international trade agreements, demonstrating a sophisticated balance between economic aspirations and geopolitical considerations.

THE AUTHOR: Devika Bhattacharya

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