India-UK FTA: British delegation to arrive Monday for concluding round of talks

India-UK FTA: British delegation to arrive Monday for concluding round of talks

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  • January 21, 2024
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NEW DELHI : A delegation from the United Kingdom will arrive in India on 22 January to discuss remaining aspects of the free-trade agreement negotiations between the two countries, said two people aware of the matter.

The fourteenth and concluding round of negotiations for a free-trade agreement between India and the UK began on 10 January in New Delhi.

A majority of the issues in the proposed FTA between India and the UK are either finalised or at an advanced stage of talks, said one of the two persons mentioned above. Both of them declined to be identified.

“Both sides are hoping to conclude the negotiations soon,” this person said, adding that the negotiations with the UK were heading in the right direction. The UK’s delegation of about a dozen members includes high-ranking government officials to resolve some sticky issues in the final deliberations, this person added. 

A commerce ministry spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to emailed queries.

The two sides concluded the thirteenth round of FTA talks between 18 September and 15 December. The fourteenth round of negotiations, which began earlier this month, includes matters related to goods, services, and investment.  

Some of the sticky issues have been discussions on business mobility, scotch whiskey, automobiles including electric vehicles, farm products, pharmaceuticals, rules of origin, and a separate agreement to enhance bilateral investments. 

However, the focus of the negotiators has been to resolve the remaining issues, said the second person mentioned above.   

With bilateral trade growing from $17.5 billion in FY2022 to $20.36 billion in FY2023, India and the UK are committed to developing a comprehensive and mutually beneficial trade relationship.   

However, the India-UK FTA negotiations have encountered multiple obstacles, resulting in the ambitious agreement being delayed by more than a year from its original deadline.

India’s demand for visas for professionals is another sticky issue in the negotiations.  

While India would like its companies to be able to hire people (both locally in the UK and from India) after setting up shop there, the UK is concerned about migration, an emotive issue in the country that led to the 2016 referendum on Britain’s decision to exit the European Union.

Ending the free movement of people and taking back control of its borders were key factors that resulted in Brexit. While it remains a key issue, the UK government has had some setbacks. 

For example, the UK government announced the Rwanda scheme in April 2022 to prevent migration, and loss of life in the process, especially from African countries. Under the five-year trial of the scheme, asylum seekers arriving in the UK could be sent to Rwanda for processing. But, in November, the UK Supreme Court ruled the plan unlawful due to risks to asylum seekers sent to Rwanda.

India’s rapidly growing market and economy have made it a lucrative option for developed as well as developing countries for free-trade agreements, economic think tank Global Trade Research Initiative said in a report earlier this month.   

“The main reason is India’s high import duties, which make it difficult for these countries to access India’s large and rapidly growing market,” it added.

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Published: 21 Jan 2024, 05:34 PM IST

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