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India, UK end fifth round of FTA talks

India will continue to work intensively towards its targets to conclude the talks by Diwali, said Nidhi Mani Tripathi, Joint Secretary Ministry of Commerce…reports Asian Lite News

India and UK have just concluded the fifth round of talks for the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The agreement is estimated to double India-UK bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2030.

“Two weeks of round five of India UK FTA negotiations draw to a close. Our teams will continue to work intensively throughout summer towards our targets to conclude the talks by Diwali,” said Nidhi Mani Tripathi, Joint Secretary Ministry of Commerce.

UK Permanent SecretaryTrade, James Bowler, met with Commerce Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam before the fifth round began a few days back. Three agreements were signed including recognising each others higher education.

“Trade talks between India and UK are on track and the proposed trade deal is currently being negotiated and would be concluded by August 31st,” Subrahmanyam had said earlier. “Irrespective of the party in power in the UK, the logic of FTA with India is irreversible,” Subrahmanyam said.

The UK is at present reeling under political instability after Prime Minister Boris Johnson stepped down. The race for the next Prime Minister is hotting up. However, this is not likely to impact the FTA negotiations, say experts.

“Cookie-cutter style of trade deals won’t work with a diverse country like India. An agreement will mark a major step in a new direction of the 21st century. Negotiations can be tough but success comes with cooperation,” tweeted Anne-Marie Trevelyan, UK Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade.

The FTA is pertinent for both India as well as the UK as it will give a boost to overall trade. With issues that UK is battling at present regarding wages, there is a need for the FTA going through for UK as much as it is for India.

While the FTA will double UK’s exports to India, it is also expected to boost Britain’s total  trade by as much as £28 billion a year by 2035 and increase wages across the UK regions by £3 billion, according to industry estimates.

“UK is going through a wage crisis at present and this infusion of funds with enhanced trade with India will help them. Statistics reveal that wages (despite a recent hike) don’t match up with the 6.2 per cent rise in the consumer price index,” said an expert on FTA.

In the past rounds of negotiations UK had agreed to eliminate duty on rice and textile goods while India is likely to allow duty free entry of British apples, UK manufactured medical devices and machinery.

UK was India’s 17th largest trading partner (2021-22). The total trade between the two nations stood at $16 billion (April 2021-February 2022).

Meanwhile, a new cross-party UK parliamentary panel has been created to promote trade, investment and people-to-people ties with India, backed up by British Indian think tank 1928 Institute. The India (Trade and Investment) All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) was formally registered last week as part of celebrations of the 75th anniversary of India’s independence and is made up of 25 members of Parliament and peers of different political affiliations.

With a stated goal to promote trade and investment between India and the UK for the mutual betterment of their citizens, whilst building an inclusive living bridge between the two countries, the new APPG hopes to support the ongoing India-UK free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations and promote its benefits once concluded.

“Given 75 years of India’s Independence, the creation of an All-Party Parliamentary Group focused on India will set the tempo between the UK Parliament and India/Indians,” said Navendu Mishra, Indian-origin Opposition Labour Party MP for Stockport in north-west England and Co-Chair of the new APPG. “Investment in people is the best way to ensure economic stability and this APPG intends to benefit the peoples of both the UK and India. In particular, I’m looking forward to bringing investment to Stockport and to the Greater Manchester region, both from stronger cultural ties and from utilising the trade agreement,” he said.

From trips across different parts of Britain to visits to India, the India (Trade & Investment) APPG said it will work with diverse stakeholders and encourage beneficial collaborations. “It’s a new chapter in the story of the Indo-British trade partnership and I’ll be working tirelessly to ensure that we get the best possible FTA and that it is utilised after. The group’s establishment coincides with the 75th year of India’s Independence and it will be a parliamentary driving force behind the UK-India story in the years to come,” said Lord Karan Bilimoria, Indian-origin businessman and Co-Chair of the APPG.

“This APPG will be the conduit which not only connects UK and Indian policymakers but connects businesses and entrepreneurs to drive growth. The APPG will ensure that dialogue and engagement will cut across all levels of business, particularly encouraging a wider lens on female led business and start-ups,” added Baroness Sandy Verma, the President of the new group.

The APPG is chaired by Conservative Party MP Bob Blackman and includes other Indian-origin parliamentarians as vice-chairs, including Lord Meghnad Desai, Baroness Usha Prashar, Labour MP Virendra Sharma and Tory MP Gagan Mohnidra.“We are honoured to facilitate the APPG as its Secretariat and look forward to collaborating with diverse partners to champion trade, investment, and development,” said the 1928 Institute, a University of Oxford spinout focussed on Indian diaspora research in the UK.

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