India-UK To Discuss 6th Round Of Talks On Free Trade Agreement

As per the recent news, UK trade secretary Kemi Badenoch will arrive in New Delhi today December 12th to conduct her first in-person meeting with Indian counterpart Piyush Goyal over UK-India free trade agreement (FTA). These two Indian and British negotiators are going to sit down and continue the sixth round of negotiations for a free trade agreement. 

The new round signifies the first formal arrangement between the India-UK negotiating teams since July and the first since Rishi Sunak assumed control as British Prime Minister.

Remarking the International trade minister Kemi Badenoch, performing the negotiations for the UK, the UK high commission stated, “Badenoch will encounter her counterpart commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal face to face for the first time.”

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in April announced an aspiring target to agree on an FTA with India by Diwali in October. But with his resignation in July and the political mess in the UK, the deadline was missed.

New Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated his commitment to initiating a deal with India without compromising on quality for speed, as per reports.

Kemi Badenoch was selected for her role in September.

She will direct both teams of leading negotiators ahead of the sixth round of formal talks, planned to take place throughout the week, as per the reports.

“I am in New Delhi to initiate round six of UK-India trade negotiations and meet my counterpart (Commerce & Industry) Minister Goyal personally to bring progress on this arrangement,” explained Badenoch in a statement.

She added, “Both nations have come together to discuss FTA with the exceptional desires and eagerness to work in collaboration towards a mutually beneficial deal. I am amped up about the opportunities we can develop for British business.”

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“India and the UK are the 5th and 6th largest economies in the world. We have a combined history and are in a favourable position to initiate a deal that will ensure employment, develop growth, and boost our 29 billion pounds trading relationship,” she said.

As per the UK government, the objective of the FTA is to accomplish an arrangement to decrease tariffs and develop opportunities for the UK service sectors such as financial and legal. It further added that the step will make it easier for British companies to sell to the Indian economy, which is set to be the world’s third largest with a middle class of 250 million people by 2050. 

On the other hand, for India, a requirement would be more visas to study and work in Britain. Previously, British interior minister Suella Braverman started a discussion in October when she explained Indians were the largest group of migrants who exceed those staying in the country.

The UK trade secretary will also communicate with business leaders in India to thoroughly understand their requirements for a “modern UK-India trade relationship”. This involves a meeting with envoPAP, a UK organization venturing more than 10 million pounds into India to build a plant producing FairTrade paper and packaging products.

The UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) explained that it anticipates an increment in UK exports to India by over 9 million pounds by the middle of the next decade due to immense development in the Indian economy. 

The department featured food chain Pret A Manger and fintech leaders Tide and Revolut among those with development plans for India showing the number of UK organizations that are as of now taking advantage of the prospering trade relationship.

Pret, a well-known British coffee and sandwich retailer, is expected to open its first branch in India early in 2023 following a franchise association with Reliance Brands. Mumbai will be the place to set up the chain's first branch as part of a plan to initiate 100 in total across the nation.

“Initiating Pret’s freshly prepared food and organic coffee to a maximum number of people around the world is the essential part of our transformation methodology, and I am glad to be introducing Pret in India,”  said Pano Christou, CEO of Pret A Manger. 

“With an increasing demand for fresh food and new dining encounters, we hope for an amazing opportunity to develop the Pret brand across India while also adding something remarkable to its food-to-go market,” he added.”

Meanwhile, the UK’s leading small and medium enterprise (SME) targeted business financial platform Tide declared the introduction of its app as a market entry product in India last week as a feature of its development procedure. India is Tide's first worldwide market.

Revolut, a British banking services app, is reported to have made over 300 Indian jobs and strategies to create hundreds more in the upcoming years. It has also ventured USD 46 million in the nation and recently opened its Indian head office in Bengaluru. It is now focused on launching “bespoke” financial products, some of which would be reportedly new to the country.

According to PTI, DIT noticed that an India-UK FTA would imply that organizations like Pret would get benefits from a “decrease in red tape, more affordable international trade, and boosted opportunities to operate with Indian companies and suppliers.”

“The UK-India FTA remains a first concern for the business. We hail the Secretary of State and Prime Minister for addressing and focusing on substance over pace. Trade is an essential driver of development and India will be a vital partner and market as the UK hopes to get away from stagflation, draw in skilled labour, and give on the green transition.” explained Andy Burwell, International Director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). 

India-UK bilateral trade as of now stands at around 29.6 billion pounds a year, according to official UK government data. Both sides officially launched FTA negotiations at the beginning of this year with former prime minister Boris Johnson declaring a Diwali deadline for its conclusion. 

The discussions got deferred because of political disturbance in the country. New British PM Sunak committed to settling the agreement as soon as possible.

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“I discussed the free trade agreement with India, and both the Prime Minister of India and I committed our teams to operate as soon as possible to check if we can invite a successful conclusion to the negotiations,” Sunak explained to the House of Commons last month. 

“Without discussing all these things in public, I am glad that most of the productive negotiation conversations were concluded by the end of October. We will currently work at pace with the Indian teams to try to address the complexities and come to a mutually acceptable conclusion,” he said.

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