Enhanced UK-India business ties can lead to free trade pact: Raab

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on December 15, 2020

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab with S Jaishankar   -  Manish Swarup

India and the UK are working towards an ‘Enhanced Trade Partnership’ next year which hopefully will be a stepping stone for a free trade agreement in the future, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said.

“That (Enhanced Trade Partnership) can unlock huge opportunities for Indian and UK businesses, lowering barriers in areas like food and drink, healthcare and life sciences, IT, data, chemicals and financial services. I think there are exciting possibilities ahead,” Raab said addressing a joint press conference with Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar following their bilateral meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday.

The meeting focussed on the five themes of connecting people, trade and prosperity, defence and security, climate and health.

Raab is on a four-day official tour of India ahead of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit in January 2021 to participate in the Republic Day celebrations and the UK’s invitation to India to be a guest country at the G7 Summit to be hosted by the country next year.

10-year road map

The Foreign Secretary is due to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday to discuss a ‘10-year roadmap’ for a new era in the UK-India relationship, closer collaboration on an Enhanced Trade Partnership, and working together to end the Coronavirus crisis and tackle climate change.

The UK Foreign Secretary pointed out that bilateral trade between India and the UK was already growing before the pandemic and had posted an increase of 11 per cent (to about £24 billion) in the last fiscal. Making his observation on the visit, Jaishankar said that its timing was important as it was taking place when a post-Covid and a post-Brexit world were being looked at.

While the UK exited the EU on January 31, 2020, most rules and regulations guiding the relationship between the two remained the same during the eleven-month transition period which will end on December 31, 2020. “India-UK relationship, which was already big and growing, has the potential to be scaled up and the presence of the UK PM at the Republic Day celebrations would be, in a way, symbolic of a new phase of the relationship,” he added.

Raab said that India-UK collaboration in the production and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines was a good example of what the two could do to transform lives of people around the world.

Published on December 15, 2020

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