NDTV | 17 June 2022
India, UK launch 4th round of free trade agreement talks in Geneva
India and the UK on Friday launched the fourth round of talks on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on the sidelines of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva.
The delegations of both sides met to hold a discussion on the proposed FTAs between the two countries.
A number of non-tariff barriers, like rules related to investor protection, intellectual property rights, and harmonisation of governance and standards, are among the key sticky points in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that India and the United Kingdom target to sign by Diwali this year.
Earlier, Richard Heald, Executive Chair, UK India Business Council (UKIBC), told ANI in an interview, "The UK businesses, as well as the Indian businesses, want the equal focus to be given to non-tariff barriers, particularly the technical barriers to trade and the investment."
He said there are a number of non-tariff barriers that both countries need to address in order to have a comprehensive trade deal. "It’s not only about tariff barriers but also non-tariff barriers," he said.
He said the non-tariff barriers that the two countries need to address include the issues around rules of origin, harmonisation of governance and standards, confirmation of rules around intellectual property rights, and investor protection.
India and the UK announced their intention to have a comprehensive free trade agreement during a virtual summit held in May 2021 between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson.
Formal negotiations on the proposed FTA between the two countries started early this year. The third round of talk was held on May 6 in a hybrid mode with some of the teams meeting in New Delhi and the majority joining virtually. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his India visit expressed his support for more skilled visas for Indians stating that the UK is currently facing a shortage of experts in IT and programming sectors.
During the third round of negotiations, the "draft treaty text was advanced across the majority of chapters. Technical experts from both sides came together for discussions in 60 separate sessions covering 23 policy areas," as per a joint statement released after the meeting.
India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal visited London in the last week of May to take the negotiations forward. After the meetings with UK negotiators, Goyal had expressed hope that the FTA would be signed by Diwali.
Earlier, this week, British High Commissioner Alex Ellis said, "The UK is now no longer in the European Union and this actually offers the opportunity to strengthen the UK-India relationship. I think in particular about trade where we are negotiating a free trade agreement. We will have the next round of that next week and the two Prime Ministers have told negotiators that it will be done by Diwali."
India and UK launched Free Trade Agreement negotiations in January this year. The two countries are also exploring the possibility of an interim agreement to provide quick gains for benefitting businesses on both sides.