• Monday, June 24, 2024

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India, UK reaffirm commitment to free trade agreement

The India-UK free trade agreement negotiations began in January 2022, aiming to enhance bilateral trade, currently valued at around 38.1 billion pounds annually.

India’s foreign secretary, Vinay Kwatra, and his UK counterpart Philip Barton discussed progress on the free trade agreement and planned the next steps. (Photo: X/@PhilipRBarton)

By: Vivek Mishra

India and the UK have reaffirmed their commitment to finalising a free trade agreement (FTA) during the annual UK-India Strategic Dialogue. Both sides noted the “good progress” on the 2030 Roadmap since the last review.

India’s foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra, visiting the UK, held discussions with Sir Philip Barton, permanent under-secretary at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). Following their meeting, the FCDO reported that the leaders reviewed progress on the UK-India 2030 Roadmap and planned for the next phase of bilateral cooperation.

“The two reflected on good progress on the 2030 Roadmap since the last review, noting key areas where the UK and India have worked together to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges,” the FCDO said in a statement.

“This included collaborating on the world’s first malaria vaccine, working closely on India’s successful G20 Presidency and increasing opportunities for students and entrepreneurs under the Migration and Mobility Partnership. Alongside celebrating the milestones since the last review, this year’s dialogue included the ongoing commitment to negotiate a mutually beneficial free trade agreement (FTA), and enhance defence cooperation,” the statement added.

The India-UK FTA negotiations began in January 2022, aiming to enhance bilateral trade, currently valued at around 38.1 billion pounds annually. The discussions are now in their 14th round, proceeding slowly due to the phased Indian general elections.

Earlier, the High Commission of India in London stated that Kwatra had a “fruitful meeting” with UK minister of state for defence procurement James Cartlidge. They discussed ongoing defence capability cooperation and future collaboration opportunities.

“We are delighted to host Indian foreign secretary Kwatra in London to underline the UK’s commitment to deepening cooperation with India. I look forward to our relationship going from strength to strength, working together on trade, defence, climate, and health,” said Lord Tariq Ahmad, FCDO minister for South Asia. His office indicated that their meeting covered the FTA, migration, and the Commonwealth.

The 2030 Roadmap, agreed upon in 2021, includes commitments to deepen cooperation in health, climate, trade, education, science and technology, and defence by 2030.

During the UK-India Strategic Dialogue, Foreign Secretary Kwatra held various cross-department meetings, including discussions with UK Home Office minister Matthew Rycroft on legal migration and curbing illegal flows.

“They recognised the need to further enhance cooperation in tackling extremism and terrorism,” the Indian mission in London said. Additionally, senior officials discussed key areas of bilateral ties and the broader geopolitical security landscape with the UK national security adviser (NSA).

The FTA includes 26 chapters covering goods, services, investments, and intellectual property rights. The Indian industry seeks greater access for its skilled professionals in the UK market, especially in IT and healthcare, as well as market access for several goods with no customs duties.

The UK seeks significant cuts in import duties on goods like Scotch whisky, electric vehicles, lamb meat, chocolates, and certain confectionery items. The UK also aims for more opportunities for UK services in Indian markets, particularly in telecommunications, legal, and financial services (banking and insurance).

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