CNBC TV18 | 5 July 2023
India-UK FTA nears completion, services sector in focus to boost trade, investments
The United Kingdom is keen that the free trade pact being negotiated with India is completed at the earliest as it re-focuses its attention on the growing markets of the Indo-Pacific, however, the financial powerhouse is not setting any deadlines for the agreements which will include deals on the service sector and investments.
UK’s Minister for International Trade, Nigel Huddleston, in an exclusive interview to PTI said that half the chapters in the deal have already been concluded and work is on to complete the negotiations as soon as possible.
“We have made good progress on the FTA … we have concluded negotiations on half the chapters in the pact. We want a comprehensive agreement on both goods and services. It (the pact with India) is going to be very important as part of our shift towards the Indo-Pacific,” the UK Minister said.
“We are particularly keen to get this FTA with India as we have strong historic ties,” he added.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had earlier last week indicated that both countries were aiming for a “truly ambitious trade deal.” The FTA which has been in the works for some years now is expected to be a comprehensive pact covering not only goods and services trade but also investments.
Huddleston pointed out that 80 percent of Great Britain’s economy was dependent on services and the chapters on services are therefore an important part of the deal being negotiated for both countries.
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Britain which has a $3.1 trillion economy, according to World Bank data, has long been a service sector powerhouse. The city of London, which is one of the world’s biggest financial markets, has also long attracted Indian companies seeking to raise funds from the global market.
“It’s a negotiation, so I really can’t reveal our hand,” he said with a smile when asked about sticking points in the agreement.
The Minister also said the pact, which would include chapters on investments from both countries, would take care to see that not only big businesses but small and medium enterprises from both countries gained by the agreement.
Speaking on sub-deals on trade in whiskey, automobiles, etc., the Minister said, “We would like to see tariffs come down … (However) our pacts are not just about tariff but also a lot about non-tariff barriers.”
He pointed out that the way forward for promoting ease of doing trade would be to reduce “paperwork and increase digital signatures.”
Nigel Huddleston who was appointed Minister for International Trade in February this year with a charge of all global trade negotiations, has been an important Tory leader in the UK and has been Government Whip (Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury) before this.
Huddleston told PTI that temporary business visas and inter-company transfer of people “was part of the conversation” to make it easier for businessmen and highly skilled professionals to travel between the two countries.
UK companies have invested about $33.87 billion in the Indian market while some 900 Indian firms operating in the UK are believed to generate $68 billion in turnover, according to Invest India.