The Textile Ministry is keen to get garments and made-ups included in the early harvest programme being worked out between India and the UK as a precursor to a full-fledged Free Trade Agreement (FTA), government officials have said.

“We have conveyed to the Commerce Ministry that it should focus on getting garments included in the early harvest programme being negotiated with the UK. There is a huge opportunity to be reaped for our industry in the UK market. On the other hand, our import of textile items from the UK is very low and the local industry does not feel threatened if duties are lowered on our side as well,” an official tracking the matter told BusinessLine.

Indian exporters will be in a better position to face competition in the UK from countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and Pakistan, who have duty-free access for a number of items under various schemes. “Garment exporters from countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and Pakistan have a tariff advantage of about 10-11 per cent because of the special schemes they qualify for. If India and the UK agree on tariff cuts, it would increase the competitiveness of Indian exporters tremendously,” the official said.

Exports number

Total import of apparels in the UK in 2019 was $24.9 billion, of which India’s share was just $1.4 billion while Bangladesh’s share was at $3.6 billion, as per figures collated by the Apparel Export Promotion Council. The industry, too, is of the view that removal of tariff disadvantage would give a big boost to the exports.

Last month, Indian Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and his British counterpart Anne-Marie Trevelyan, launched negotiations for an ambitious FTA targetting an interim agreement by mid-April and the comprehensive deal including a number of areas including goods, services, investments, government procurement, intellectual property, e-commerce, gender and sustainability by the year-end.

Both countries are aiming to double bilateral trade in goods and services to $100 billion by 2030.