Interview: The Economic Times (Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury)
The Economic Times: What are your views on resolutions in EP on what is essentially an internal matter for India.
Jean Asselborn: First of all, I would like thank my friend Dr. Jaishankar for the warm welcome to India. This is my fourth visit and I am very pleased to be here. I had the great pleasure to welcome his predecessor, the late Sushma Swaraj, in Luxembourg for a two-day visit in June 2018. Luxembourg and India share a strong support to the rules-based multilateral order with the UN and the WTO at its core. We have worked extensively together with India during Luxembourg's tenure of its non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council in 2013-14 and we are glad to support each other in the future on UN matters. India and EU are the biggest parliamentarian democracies in the world. Like in all democracies, the European Parliament has the right do debate on the issues it chooses and it does so every day and even questions its own EU Member States onthe rule of law or political solidarity, like it did for instance for Poland and Hungary. There is indeed a separation of powers between the EU institutions. I want to underline that at the last Foreign Affairs Council we clearly stated our wish to strengthen our political and economic links with your great country. In my opinion, India is a fascinating country with many faiths, languages and cultures. This multicultural approach is a unique advantage, which we Europeans know how to appreciate.
The Economic Times: What are your expectations from forthcoming India-EU summit in Brussels?
Jean Asselborn: Luxembourg, as one of the 6 founding members of the European Union, attaches a great importance to the strategic partnership between India and EU, which is reflected in the 2018 EU strategy on India. The next EU-India summit, which is scheduled to take place in Brussels on 13 March 2020, will be the opportunity to jointly agree on our cooperation priorities for the coming years and take our strategic partnership forward. The EU and India have developed excellent sectoral cooperation in the fields of digital economy, research and innovation, transport, environment, energy and climate change. The EU is India's largest trading partner, accounting for 92 billion euros worth of trade in goods in 2018 or 12,9% of total Indian trade, ahead of China (10,9%) and the US (10,1%). The EU is also the leading destination for Indian exports, almost 18% of the total.
The Economic Times: What are your views on slowdown in Indian economy and how can Luxembourg assist in boosting Indian economy through investments
Jean Asselborn: As India is currently the 5th biggest economy in the world, we are of course following the economic developments in India. Despite a relative slowdown, India's economic growth is still high compared to other regions. India represents a sizeable and dynamic market and is an important player in global economic governance and as such an important trade and investment partner for the EU and Luxembourg. A number of Luxembourgish companies have invested into India for more than two decades and participate in the "Make in India” initiative. The Luxembourgish engineering company Paul Wurth has been present in India for more than 25 years and has equipped some of the largest blast furnaces. Ceratizit, which has been developing and producing sophisticated hard material cutting and wear protection solutions, has production sites in West Bengal and Karnataka. Amer-Sil, which manufactures gauntlets for the automotive industry, has a Joint Venture with its Indian counterpart Ketex and is also based in West Bengal. The world's largest steel producer Arcelor Mittal is based in Luxembourg since its merger in 2006 and has recently concluded the takeover of Essar Steel, for which it will bring new investments to India.
The Economic Times: How can Luxembourg assist India in harnessing technology and finance from EU (as well as in migration)?
Jean Asselborn: Luxembourg continues to invest substantially in new promising technologies and there is a big potential to develop more cooperation with India. Following the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Luxembourg Stock Exchange launched a Green exchange, a platform that is entirely dedicated to sustainable finance and currently hosts more than 50% of all Green Bonds listed around the world. This could be interesting for India to attract investment into green and sustainable technologies like solar and wind power. Luxembourg and India also intensified their cooperation between Universities and research institutes. Indian students have started coming to Luxembourg for research and post-doctoral studies, and we are currently relaunching our MoU'swith the Indian Institutes of Technologies of Kanpur, Bombay and Madras, among others. There is also a lot of cooperation between IT companies in Luxembourg and India. This is one of the reasons why we have an increasing Indian diaspora living and working in Luxembourg. The number of highly skilled workers and their families moving to Luxembourg has increased substantially over the last 5 years and they contribute to our multicultural society. We even have Diwali celebrations in Luxembourg.
The Economic Times: What are plans for expansion in sector of space cooperation.
Jean Asselborn: The Luxembourg headquartered and world-leading satellite operator, Société européenne des satellites (SES), currently has 6 satellites operating over India through ISRO. Based on the experience we have with SES and other companies in the space sector, we have further developed the ecosystem of the space industry in my country. In 2017, Luxembourg became the first European country to develop a legal framework that allows private companies to invest into space ventures. Luxembourg is interested to work more with India, which is one of the leading countries in this dynamic sector.