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Johnson says FTA hopefully by yr-end; to hold talks with PM Modi today

Business Standard - 22 April 2022

Johnson says FTA hopefully by yr-end; to hold talks with PM Modi today
By Ahmedabad

Emphasising the need to reduce reliance on foreign oil and gas amid Russia-Ukraine conflict, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday said his country hoped to complete a free trade agreement (FTA) with India by the year-end.

“We are hoping to complete another FTA with India by the end of the year, by the autumn,” Johnson told reporters in Gujarat during the first leg of his two-day visit to the country.

Johnson, the first British PM to visit Gujarat, also reportedly told the media on the plane on his way to India that he was ready to offer more visas to India in return for the FTA deal that could boost annual bilateral trade immensely.

According to Britain, the trade deal with India could almost double the former’s exports, boosting annual bilateral trade by £28 billion (Rs 2.8 trillion) per annum even as British statistics pegged total trade at £23 billion (Rs 2.2 trillion) in 2019.

Apart from following the tradition of visiting Sabarmati Ashram to pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and try his hand at spinning the charkha, Johnson’s visit to Gujarat involved a one-on-one meeting with Gautam Adani, chairman of the Adani Group as well as a trip to Halol to open JCB India’s new export-focused facility near Vadodara.

Set up at an investment of £100 million (over Rs 990 crore) investment in Gujarat, the latest factory by JCB will fabricate parts for global production lines even as the company strengthens its global manufacturing presence.

Welcomed by Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, Johnson held a roadshow from the airport to the Ashram before he met Adani at the group headquarters. “It is an immense privilege to come to the Ashram of this extraordinary man, and to understand how he mobilised such simple principles of truth and non-violence to change the world for the better,” Johnson wrote in the Sabarmati Ashram’s visitor book.

Later, among a range of bilateral matters, Johnson and Adani discussed several key thrust areas, including aerospace and defence, energy transition, climate action, and human capital development.

Prominent among the discussions was the defence sector where the Adani Group aims to develop deep original equipment manufacturing (OEM) capabilities and work towards making India an export hub for defence with both Johnson and Adani exploring ways for collaborations with British companies for co-design and co-development of aerospace and defence technology.

On Thursday, Adani announced an academic programme for young Indians through the UK government’s renowned international Chevening Scholarship, where Adani Group will provide £200,000 every year through five scholarships for Indian graduate students for studying in a master’s degree in the UK.

Ahead of his official “in-depth” talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Johnson on Thursday announced that the UK and Indian businesses had confirmed more than £1 billion of new investments and export deals, set to create 11,000 jobs across the UK.

Earlier, Johnson had said that the two nations would be talking about building partnerships in hydrogen, electric vehicles, offshore wind as well as deepening security and defence partnership.

Later in the day, Johnson visited the Gujarat Biotechnology University at GIFT City as well as Akshardham temple before hosting a private dinner for the state’s who’s who at Ahmedabad.

 source: Business Standard