India-UK FTA negotiations likely to begin in November

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on September 14, 2021

Goyal, Liz Truss discuss preparations including trade working group discussions

Negotiations for the proposed India-UK Free Trade Agreement are likely to begin by November 2021 with both sides focussing on an interim agreement, with limited items, to begin with which is to be followed by a comprehensive agreement, Commerce & Industry Minister, Piyush Goyal, has said.

Goyal, and his British counterpart Elizabeth Truss, discussed progress made in both countries in preparing for the negotiations in a virtual meeting on Monday.

Extensive consultations

At the meeting, the Minister pointed out that substantial work had already been done and extensive stakeholder consultations had been held involving industry and business associations, export promotion councils, buyer/seller associations, regulatory bodies, Ministries/Departments, and public research bodies, a release issued by the Ministry of Commerce stated. A consultation paper on the proposed FTA was also made public for wider participation.

“They discussed the findings from the consultation and agreed on steps to get ready to launch negotiations later this year — including the start of a series of trade working groups from September,” per a readout of the meeting put up by the UK Department of International Trade.

These discussions between the UK and Indian governments will help both sides better understand each other’s position on potential chapter areas in any trade deal including tariffs, standards, IP, and data regulation, the readout added.

Bilateral working groups

Goyal said there was keenness to have an early conclusion of negotiations for quick and early economic benefits to businesses on both sides. Bilateral working groups (BWGs) for different tracks had been formed to understand ambitions, interests and sensitivities of one another to facilitate accelerated progress during negotiations, he added. “The meetings of these BWGs are presently in progress and are likely to be completed by September, 2021,” the statement said.

These BWG discussions would hopefully help both sides in understanding each other’s policy regimes and would put them in a better position when both sides begin their Joint Scoping discussions, beginning on October 1, to finalise the terms of reference for launch of negotiations in November, the Minister added.

Doubling trade

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, at a virtual summit earlier this month, agreed on an ‘Enhance Trade Partnership’ laying the roadmap for more than doubling bilateral trade by 2030 and declaring their intention to negotiate an FTA.

Also see: ₹56,027 crore pending dues to be released: Piyush Goyal

The two-way trade between India-UK in 2019-20 was $15.4 billion but both leaders acknowledged that there was a lot more potential and doubling trade in about a decade was feasible.

Published on September 14, 2021

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