UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is likely to visit India in the coming months and that is when there might be some visibility on the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries, said Alex Ellis, UK High Commissioner to India.

“The British PM was to visit India in the end of January but he couldn’t because of the Covid situation in the UK. But that is getting much better, thanks to the vaccination programme,” Ellis said at a media briefing on Friday. Answering queries on the UK government’s view on the ongoing Cairn India-Government of India dispute over retrospective taxes and India losing the international arbitration case, the High Commissioner said that it was no secret that discussions were going on between the two on the matter.

“We encourage both parties to reach a swift settlement,” he said.

On the possibility of an early harvest programme between India and the UK as a prelude to a full-fledged trade deal, Ellis pointed out that while India had traditionally not been very enthusiastic about trade deals, one could see a definite shift and a desire for bilateral trade deals including with the UK.

‘Big growth area’

Ellis said the process is fraught with complexities as trade negotiations are, but it was a big growth area as India and the UK had complementary economies.

India is keen on an FTA with the UK following the country’s exit from the European Union as it is an important trade partner and attractive market for Indian service providers. Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has even hinted at giving greater market access to Scotch Whisky as part of an early harvest programme in lieu of matching benefits.

The High Commissioner expressed hopes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would attend the G-7 meeting in the UK and said that India had also been invited for the D-10 group (which includes democratic partners Australia, South Korea and India in addition to the G-7).

Ellis also said that the New Graduate Scheme, which would allow students to work in the UK after finishing their studies, would help a large number of Indian students to benefit from it.

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