India-UK Free Trade Agreement Talks Set For Early 2022

Asked about the claims, the government spokesperson said: This report is completely untrue. Both DIT and DEFRA continue to work in lockstep to support British farmers and food and drink exporters.

Formal negotiations for an India-UK free trade agreement (FTA) are set to begin early next year as officials on both sides continue their engagement following the conclusion of working groups in October, the UK government said on Wednesday.

A government spokesperson also dismissed a British media report indicating ruptures within the UK Cabinet over food safety standards concerns associated with the proposed UK-India FTA as completely untrue and insisted that government departments remain in lockstep towards a deal with India to open up huge opportunities for UK businesses.

We look forward to launching negotiations early next year, a UK government spokesperson said.

India is projected to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2050, and a trade deal will open huge opportunities for UK businesses to trade with India’s GBP 2 trillion economies, the spokesperson said.

A report in the City AM’ publication on Tuesday had quoted government sources at Whitehall as saying that India’s food safety standards have been a cause for concern for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as the UK looks to seal a zero-tariff trade deal with the world’s largest democracy.

It also referred to a senior Department for International Trade (DIT) source as saying that momentum on the UK-India trade deal has slowed down and that it is unlikely a quick deal will be struck.

Asked about the claims, the government spokesperson said: This report is completely untrue. Both DIT and DEFRA continue to work in lockstep to support British farmers and food and drink exporters.

As we have continually stated, maintaining the UK’s high standards, including for food safety, remains a red line in all our trade negotiations.

According to the DIT, preparations for the launch of negotiations for the UK-India FTA “remain underway” since the conclusion of bilateral working groups. UK International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan and her counterpart, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, had also held talks during the G20 trade ministers meeting in Sorrento, Italy, in October to discuss final preparations for the launch of UK-India FTA negotiations.

The UK has said it wants a deal that slashes barriers to doing business and trading with India.

Last week, Confederation of British Industry (CBI) president Lord Karan Bilimoria had indicated that talks were set to begin imminently. The London-based entrepreneur and founding chair of the UK India Business Council (UKIBC) highlighted the areas of focus for the FTA, which the CBI as the industry representative body for over 190,000 UK businesses will be involved with.

We are just scratching the surface with a country like India. India is the fifth largest economy in the world, emerging global economic superpower, we should be doing way more than GBP 24 billion bilateral trade, he said.

That FTA I hope will be a huge benefit in enhancing bilateral trade and very comprehensive… as comprehensive as possible. Movement of people; reduction of duties and tariffs the tariff on Scotch whisky is 150 per cent, that’s got to be reduced drastically; academic collaborations and cross-border research is going to be huge between our countries; partnering on a Green industrial revolution. There is a vast array to really ramp up business and trade between our two countries, he added.

Back in May, India and the UK clinched an Enhanced Trade Partnership during a virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his UK counterpart, Boris Johnson, with the goal to double bilateral trade to GBP 50 billion by 2030. The FTA is seen as the next step in the bilateral engagement, with some discussion around an interim agreement ahead of a full-fledged deal.

(PTI)