UK minister hopeful of free trade pact by early 2023

The United Kingdom was hopeful of concluding a free trade pact with India by early 2023, secretary of state for international trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan told ET. The deal could double trade in a decade by opening up a slew of opportunities for both sides, even as negotiators would brainstorm over the next weeks on the possibility of an interim pact, she added.

“The formal official negotiations on a UK-India free trade deal will be launched tomorrow (Thursday) when I meet minister Goyal. Thereafter, negotiators from both sides will begin their negotiations from next week and are expected to meet for a few rounds in the coming weeks. It will be decided depending on the negotiations whether to have an interim deal or to go altogether for a final deal. I am hopeful that both sides could finalise the deal by early 2023 if all issues are addressed,” Trevelyan told ET in an exclusive interview on the eve of her meeting with commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal.

The deal would open huge opportunities for British businesses in India and vice versa in both goods and services, said the minister who was visiting India despite the pandemic situation. “The growing middle class in India provides a big opportunity for the British businesses to offer quality services and products. British businesses should seize this opportunity.”

The UK was hopeful that following the deal the current volume of bilateral trade would double within a decade, Trevelyan said. The UK government was also hoping to reap benefits from the deal ahead of the 2024 national elections.

When asked about concerns or challenges that British businesses are facing in India, the minister said that tariff for some products was one of the issues that could be looked at by the Indian side. “Green technology and renewables are key areas of partnership. But products like turbines are facing a big tariff. We would like the Indian side to look into this issue.” Besides green energy and renewables, “digital sector holds immense potential for British businesses” in India, Trevelyan pointed out and recalled a partnership with Singapore in this sphere.

When asked about Indian concerns in the UK, the minister noted that Indian investments had contributed in a big way to the country’s economy and each sector in the UK was open for Indian investments. It may be pointed out that Indian investments in the UK already support 95,000 jobs, with 15,000 new jobs created by Indian investment in the last three years alone.

India wants to ramp up mobility for its professionals, besides safeguards for agriculture, better market access for vaccines, basmati rice, wool, yarn, instant coffee and tea premix, among other items.

Total trade in goods and services between the two countries was £23.3 billion in 2019, making India the UK’s 15th largest trading partner.

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