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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

India and the European Union resumed talks Monday on a free-trade deal after a nine-year gap, as Western countries seek to wean New Delhi off its close economic ties to Russia. Dubbed the “tariff king” by ex US president Donald Trump, India has become more open to lowering trade barriers in recent years and is negotiating pacts with several other countries.

The Asian giant has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, even increasing oil purchases from its long-standing strategic ally and biggest supplier of arms.

The European Union is India’s second-biggest trading partner after the United States but talks with the bloc broke down in 2013 over issues including tariff reductions and patent protection. Merchandise trade hit an all-time high of $116 billion in 2021-22, with India’s exports to the 27-member European Union hitting $65 billion, according to New Delhi.

“Both sides are aiming for the trade negotiations to be broad-based, balanced and comprehensive, based on the principles of fairness and reciprocity. There will also be discussions on resolving the Market Access Issues which are impeding bilateral trade,” India’s commerce ministry said earlier this month when announcing the first round of talks in Delhi, which were due to run until Friday.

India in February signed a major economic partnership agreement with the United Arab Emirates and in April agreed an interim free-trade deal with Australia, aiming to finish off a full pact by the end of the year. India is also in trade negotiations with Canada, Israel and Britain. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on a visit in April that Britain and India hoped to nail down an accord by October.

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