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India, UK see free-trade deal possibly in Dec after polls

India’s trade ministry didn’t reply to an email seeking comment…reports Asian Lite News

India and the UK don’t expect a free trade agreement to be announced until after state elections in the South Asian nation are completed in December, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

There are still some differences around whether taxation will be included in a proposed investment protection pact, as well as the UK’s demand that tariffs be cut on electric vehicle exports to India, one of the people said, asking not to be identified as the deliberations are private.

There isn’t any firm deadline but an announcement could be made after the vote concludes and results are out December 3, another person told Bloomberg.

The deal, when concluded, would be a major milestone for two of the world’s largest economies that share a long history. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak would likely showcase the deal as a benefit of Brexit, while it would help his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi tout more local manufacturing and job creation when he seeks a third term next year.

India’s trade ministry didn’t reply to an email seeking comment.

A spokesperson for the UK Department for Business and Trade said both administrations “continue to work towards an ambitious trade deal that works for both countries.” 

Meanwhile, India and the UK trade ministers last week reviewed the progress of ongoing negotiations for the proposed free trade agreement (FTA). The discussions between the two nations have reached the final stage.

Both the nation’s respective ministers are in Japan currently for the Group of Seven (G7) trade ministers meeting in Osaka. The developments were reviewed by Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and the UK Secretary of State for Business and Trade Kemi Badenoch, reported PTI.

Goyal informed via the social media platform, X (formerly known as Twitter) that he and the UK trade minister ‘discussed the progress of India-UK Free Trade Agreement negotiations’.

Currently, discussions between the officials of both countries on going on to remove differences on issues like rules of origin and the services sector, with the target of concluding these talks for the FTA as soon as possible.

Notably, India and the UK initiated discussions for a trade agreement in January 2022, with Diwali 2022 as the deadline for concluding these talks. However, the negotiations had to be postponed due to political developments in the UK.

The agreement involves 26 chapters, including goods, services, investments, and intellectual property rights. Both countries are also negotiating an investment treaty as a separate agreement, which involves facilitating the promotion and protection of investments by parties in the other nation.

The major disagreement regarding the FTA is about the mechanism for settlement of disputes. The industry in India is asking for greater access for it’s skilled professionals from sectors such as IT, and healthcare in the UK market, apart from market access for several goods at nil customs duty.

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