India and UK may start formal negotiations for FTA this month

Source: Economic Times, 03 January 2022

India and the UK are likely to launch formal negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) in the second week of this month followed by the first round of talks after a week, people aware of the development said.

“The idea is to launch the negotiations and the first round of talks this month,” an official told ET.

While a delegation comprising representatives of the UK’s trade ministry and businesses is to visit India to launch the negotiations, the two sides may consider doing a virtual launch amid rising Covid-19 cases, sources said.

The two sides plan to put in place an interim agreement by March 2022 followed by a comprehensive agreement. The interim trade pact would involve early tariff or market access concessions on certain key high priority products and services, they said.

Whisky, cars, vaccines, basmati rice, wool, yarn, instant coffee, and tea pre-mix top Indian industry’s list of products identified for duty cuts. India also wants enhanced mobility for its professionals.

The UK is keen on tariff reduction on Scotch whisky and a bilateral data adequacy agreement prior to the finalisation of a full-fledged free trade agreement.

Reduction or removal of tariffs on automotive products, and removal of barriers to trade in food and drink, services, and healthcare and medical device sectors are among the objectives of proposed agreement, sources said.

“The UK is keen to ink trade agreements after Brexit and India is a natural partner for it,” said the official cited above.

The India-UK Joint Economic and Trade Committee (Jetco) would also meet during the launch of the negotiations.

India’s exports to the UK in FY21 were $8.15 billion (₹60,700 crore) and imports were $4.95 billion (₹36,850 crore). Last year, the two countries had agreed on an enhanced trade partnership with the goal to double bilateral trade to £50 billion, or about Rs 5 lakh crore, by 2030.

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