Germany's Angela Merkel meets India's Narendra Modi amid industry worries

Industry representatives have urged the German chancellor to discuss increased business ties with India during the meeting. Some business leaders are hoping Germany can close on a free trade deal 10 years in the making.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Berlin at a time of heightened concerns about protectionist policies from German industry representatives.

Although Berlin and New Delhi didn't offer details about the meeting, government officials suggested that their economic relationship was on the agenda.

Read more: Indo-German ties and India's independence

"It is clear that the prime minister of a nation of 1.3 billion people is always a welcome guest and discussion partner for us. We have intensive economic interests in common," said German government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

Business | 30.05.2017

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet that the "visit demonstrates our mutual desire to strengthen our strategic partnership."

Free trade on the horizon?

German business newspaper Handelsblatt reported that Germany's automotive industry was particularly worried about new tariffs on foreign-made components, noting that industry leaders urged Merkel to discuss the matter with Modi.

With more than 300 offices in the industrial city of Pune, German companies have also called for more access to Indian markets. But more than ten years after the EU and India agreed to start work on a free trade agreement, both sides have yet to clench a deal.

"A free trade agreement would create trust and show foreign companies that they are welcome here," Thomas Fuhrmann, president of the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce, told Handelsblatt. "India must send a signal that its market is open."

Read more: Op-ed: Make in India and do it right

Germany is considered India's "largest trading partner in Europe," according to the Indian Foreign Ministry. Bilateral trade hit €17.42 billion ($21.44 billion) in 2016.

Last month, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Germany is "heavily invested in India."

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ls/jm (dpa, AFP)

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