Macro Economy

UK, India to discuss possible free trade pact at trade committee meeting

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on July 23, 2020 Published on July 23, 2020

Upbeat on partnership in health sector, including development of vaccines against Covid, and combating climate change, says UK High Commissioner to India

The UK and India will discuss the possibility of forging a bilateral free trade agreement and putting in place other measures to deepen trade and investment relations in a meeting between Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and UK International Trade Secretary Elizabeth Truss on Friday as the country prepares to step out of the EU’s shadow by the end of this year.

“The UK is leaving the EU and the transition period will be over by the end of this year. There is certainty around that. We will now have an independent trade policy and build deeper relationships (with India) around that,” said British High Commissioner to India Philip Barton at a virtual press interaction on Thursday.

The EU and India have been trying to work out a free trade agreement since 2007 but negotiations have been stuck since 2013 as differences over market access in key areas such as automobiles, wines & spirits, investments and government procurement continue to linger.

Barton said that Goyal and Truss, who will represent their respective countries at the 15th India-UK Joint Economic and Trade Committee meeting to be held virtually, will discuss how the two countries can be more ambitions on trade and investment by building partnerships and improving market access.

When asked whether UK will be open to India’s proposal of an early harvest trade deal initially, involving just a few items, before going into a full-fledged FTA, Barton said that these issues would be taken up by the two sides in Friday’s meeting. Barriers to trade being faced by businesses will also be discussed, he added.

The High Commissioner emphasised that India was an important partner for the UK and the country’s government was favourably disposed towards it and was keen to take the partnership to a higher level. “We have bilateral trade of $24 billion annually and Indian companies in the UK employ over 1,00,000 people,” Barton said, adding that the UK was also a heavy investor in India and British companies have created many jobs in the country.

Student community

Britain is also keen to continue attracting students and the new immigration system based on points will benefit countries like India, Barton said. Due to the pandemic, foreign students will not be initially able to travel to the UK and will have to study remotely, but the situation will change once things improve, he added.

Cooperation with India in the area of health, particularly in the development of vaccines for fighting Covid-19, was another priority area for the UK, the High Commissioner said. He pointed out that India had the capacities to manufacture vaccines led by companies like Serum Institute.

While the work done by Oxford University in the development of vaccine against the virus is encouraging and other efforts were also on, none knew which one was going to work, he said, adding that research and development has to continue and it was a priority area for the country.

India and the UK are also working together to combat climate change, particularly climate related disasters, he added.

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Published on July 23, 2020
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