With 12 rounds of talks over a Free Trade Agreement done with, India and the UK are optimistic that the remaining issues of the negotiations would be addressed at the earliest so that a balanced, mutually beneficial and forward-looking FTA is concluded soon. The review of the progress of the ambitious deal came up between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Rishi Sunak during their bilateral meeting on Saturday.
This is Prime Minister Sunak’s first visit to India since becoming Prime Minister in October 2022 and he is likely to be in India again for a bilateral tour at an early, mutually convenient date, on Modi’s invitation for a more detailed discussion on the ties, which Sunak has accepted, the Ministry of External Affairs said. Modi conveyed his appreciation for UK’s support during India’s G20 Presidency, marked by high-level participation at various G20 meetings and events.
The visits gain import as the two countries inch closer to an FTA, amidst satisfactory progress in diverse areas of bilateral cooperation along the lines of the India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership as well as the Roadmap 2030, particularly in economy, defence and security, technology, green technology and climate change, health and mobility sectors. The UK has expressed interest to deliver a landmark trade deal which benefits businesses and workers in both countries and grows our trade in both goods and services. An early deal would have covered limited sectors. As per sources, the UK is advocating for stronger IP protections for companies engaged in trade with India, particularly in the pharmaceutical sector, as Western companies are anxious about Indian laboratories potentially manufacturing their drugs more affordably, says a study by India Briefing. On its part, India may be looking for limiting the proportion of UK-produced goods that can be manufactured outside the UK to prevent misuse of the India-UK trade agreement and have other countries indirectly benefit.
With total trade growing 34 per cent in current prices in the year to March 2023 and India remaining the 2nd largest source of FDI projects in the UK, the economic relationship between the two is on a strong footing. Moreover, there is recognition from UK companies that India is one of the fastest growing economies and one that is alive with opportunity in a range of sectors, including R&D, talent and manufacturing. Indian firms are also embracing UK technology and capital to grow internationally.
The momentum has also picked up with Kemi Badenoch, Secretary of State for Business and Trade’s 3-day visit to India in August to attend the G20 Trade Ministers Meeting in Jaipur before attending a parallel Business 20 (B20) Summit and meetings with Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, accompanied by Richard McCallum UKIBC Group CEO. Badenoch has launched the Department for Business and Trade’s ‘Alive with Opportunity’ campaign, a £1.5 million marketing initiative designed to build on the UK and India’s strong and enduring relationship, boost investment and double trade with India by 2030. India is the UK’s second biggest source of investment projects and this campaign is expected to boost interest in and demand for UK goods and services even further. New data shows India is the UK’s 2nd largest source of investment projects, with 118 new projects in the last financial year creating 8,384 new jobs.
More than 900 Indian businesses operate in the UK, and more than 600 UK businesses are finding success in India supporting more than half a million jobs across both countries.