February deadline for India-UK FTA talks to allow for election campaigns?
A team from Downing Street representing prime minister Rishi Sunak was in New Delhi earlier this month to add momentum to the negotiations
Narendra Modi with Rishi Sunak during the G20 Leaders’ Summit on September 9, 2023 in New Delhi, Delhi. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A NEW round of discussions in the ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) between India and the UK will begin in the New Year after the 13th round was completed last week, a joint outcome statement issued by the British government said on Monday (18).
The Department for Business and Trade (DBT) said the 14th round will continue to negotiate complex issues towards a deal next month, without indicating any schedule for conclusion.
India and the UK began talks in January last year with the aim of enhancing the £36-billion bilateral trading partnership.
“The 13th round of negotiations for the UK-India Free Trade Agreement took place from September 18 to December 15,” read the DBT joint outcome statement.
“The round included sessions both in person, in London and Delhi, and virtual talks. As with round 12, these negotiations focused on complex issues including goods, services and investment. The UK and India will continue to negotiate towards a comprehensive and ambitious Free Trade Agreement. The 14th round of negotiations will take place in January 2024,” it said.
With both India and the UK heading into a general election in 2024, signing off on a trade agreement has taken on particular urgency, with the end of February 2024 now seen as the outer time limit before leaders on both sides get into campaign mode.
A team from Downing Street representing prime minister Rishi Sunak was in New Delhi earlier this month to add momentum to the negotiations.
Under the format so far, the 14th round is likely to be hosted by London, with talks taking place between officials in a hybrid format – both in person as well as virtually.
“We have made substantial progress… I think both sides are very aware of the importance of the FTA and will make the utmost effort to get there. So, we have to take it as it happens,” India’s foreign minister S Jaishankar told reporters following his meetings with Sunak and other senior cabinet ministers during a UK visit last month.