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India UK wrap up 13th round of FTA talks

Financial Express | 18 December 2023

India UK wrap up 13th round of FTA talks

by Mukesh Jagota

India and UK have wrapped up the 13th round of negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement after four months of in-person and virtual meetings and the next round will be held in January.

“These negotiations (in 13th round) focussed on complex issues including goods, services and investment,” a joint outcome statement issued after the conclusion of the round said.

The 13th round began from September 18 and continued till December 15 and included sessions both in person in Delhi and London and virtual talks. “India and the UK will continue to negotiate towards a comprehensive and ambitious Free Trade Agreement,” the joint statement said.

India and the UK launched the talks for a free-trade agreement (FTA) in January 2022, with an aim to conclude talks by Diwali (October 24, 2022), but the deadline was missed due to political developments in the UK. Since then negotiators of both sides met every month to wrap up the deal.

A Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) is being negotiated along with the FTA and both the agreements are expected to be signed jointly.

Sticking points in negotiations broadly hover around preferential duties that the UK is asking for in its automobile industry, whiskey, some dairy items, meat and national treatment for its services industry in India. National treatment means subjecting companies from the UK in sectors like financial services and telecom on the same set of laws and regulations as local companies face.

In electric vehicles both sides are discussing limiting the number of Electric Vehicles (EV) which can be traded on preferential duties between the two countries. he UK’s interest in EVs stems from the fact that it plans to phase out internal combustion engines by 2035 so seeking concessions only in those automobiles would be of little use. The UK exports 80% of its automobile production and its biggest market is Europe.

Apart from lower duties on its labour intensive exports like textiles and garments, India is seeking relaxed visa rules for its services professionals.

However, the UK is arguing that one of the main issues that led to Brexit was migration and is a touchy political issue there. Time and again the political leadership in the UK have spoken against it so relaxations for Indian professionals is being fiercely negotiated.

India-UK FTA talks cover 26 chapters or policy areas and majority of the sectors are either closed or in advanced stages of negotiations. Other issues under negotiation include social security pact, rules of origin, intellectual property rights (IPRs).

 source: Financial Express