India, UK to launch free trade negotiations on Thursday

Anne-Marie Trevelyan and piyush goyal.

London, (Asian independent) British International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan will on Thursday in New Delhi ceremonially launch negotiations between India and the UK for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

Trevelyan will meet her counterpart Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, and the two will jointly and formally begin talks.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The UK has world-class businesses and expertise we can rightly be proud of, from Scotch whisky distillers to financial services and cutting-edge renewable technology. We are seizing the opportunities offered in growing economies of the Indo-Pacific to cement our place on the global stage and deliver jobs and growth at home.”

Johnson, though, is in the midst of a major personal crisis, with calls for his resignation resonating across the length and breadth of Britain. His latest problem is a revelation that his office hosted a drinks party’s during the height of the Covid-19 lockdown on May 20, 2020, which he and then partner had attended.

The Prime Minister tended a grovelling apology in the House of Commons on Wednesday. But political observers think this may not be sufficient to save his job.

Trevelyan stated before leaving London: “We want to unlock this huge new market (offered by India) for our great British producers and manufacturers across numerous industries from food and drink to services and automotive.

“India marks the start of our ambitious 5-star year of UK trade and will show how the deals we negotiate will boost the economies across all nations…”

The UK’s Department of International Trade (DIT) forecast the Indian middle class “to increase to a quarter of a billion consumers by 2050”.

“India is set to become the world’s third biggest economy by 2050, with a bigger population than the US and EU combined. A deal has the potential to almost double UK exports to India, boost our total trade by as much as 28 billion pounds a year by 2035, and increase wages across the UK by up to 3 billion pounds,” the Department added.

It estimated that “Indian companies already support 95,000 jobs across the UK”, with the Tatas being the biggest Indian employer in the UK.

The Department’s expectation is that “the UK wants an agreement that slashes barriers to doing business and trading with India’s 2 trillion pound economy and market of 1.4 billion consumers, including cutting tariffs on exports of British-made cars and Scotch whiskey”.

Presently, the two nations aim to double the present trade turnover by 2030. The DIT believes this stood at 23 pounds billion at the end of 2019.

It cited: “Removing duties alone would increase exports to India by up to 6.8 billion pounds, supporting tens of thousands of jobs across the UK. Important UK exports like Scotch whiskey and cars currently face enormous duties of 150 per cent and 125 per cent respectively.”