Indian minister moots FTA with UK, considers huge import of scotch whiskey


"We have so many industries which have huge potential to work with the UK businesses," says Indian commerce minister Piyush Goyal. (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/Getty Images)
"We have so many industries which have huge potential to work with the UK businesses," says Indian commerce minister Piyush Goyal. (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/Getty Images)

PROPOSING a bilateral free trade agreement, Indian commerce minister Piyush Goyal has said India was open to importing scotch whiskey in “large measure” from the UK.

Goyal said he had discussed about an FTA with the UK, as “it is the need of the hour”.

India was committed to such a pact, and it will be good for Commonwealth countries in general, he added.

“I was hoping that that would have… excited the British team. I had said that I am open to discussing import of scotch whiskey into India also in larger measure,” Goyal said while addressing CII’s India-UK Economic Partnership Summit on Tuesday (15).

“…not that I drink scotch whiskey in any way, but my intention was, we hear that lot of spurious liquor that comes in the name of scotch to India, I was hoping that would put an end to spurious liquor, get genuine material for those who can afford and want it.”

An FTA, the minister said, will “create lot of opportunities for Indian micro, small and medium enterprises, for our farmers, for our dairy, fishermen, handicrafts, textile, gems and jewellery.

“We have so many industries which have huge potential to work with the UK businesses,” he added.

Goyal said both the sides can increase cooperation in sectors where the UK was a net importer and India had a net competitive and comparative advantage.

“I think a small ‘give’ can give us a large ‘get’ in favour of India, and I do hope that we are able to take this dialogue forward in a staged manner but in an expeditious manner,” he said.

Goyal noted that as FTAs were “very comprehensive in nature”, it would take a good amount of time to sort out all the issues on the table. Hence, it may be a good idea to pick up 40-50 items on each side and look at a preferential trade agreement.

“I do sincerely believe that the time is opportune and right to have an early harvest between the two countries,” he added.

He further said the UK was a little uncertain about the early harvest agreement’s global compliance, but “we have got it examined and it is fully WTO compliant, so we must look at taking it forward expeditiously”.

Further, he said providing import duty related concessions to larger number of countries is far more difficult than in a bilateral agreement between two nations “where you give some, you get some”.

Talking about data related issues, Goyal said India was currently witness to a revelation about how certain countries or companies from certain nations were indulging in a lot of data management, analytics and crunching, “which is not in India’s national security interest”.

“I think it is important that the countries around the world recognise the importance of cyber security, importance of privacy, particularly privacy of personal data of businesses and individuals,” he said.