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Several barriers ahead for India-UK trade deal by Diwali

According to UKIBC Executive Chair, there are a number of non-tariff barriers that both countries need to address in order to have a comprehensive trade deal, a report by Gyanendra Kumar Keshri

A number of non-tariff barriers, like rules related to investor protection, intellectual property rights, and harmonisation of governance and standards, are among the key sticky points in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that India and the United Kingdom target to sign by Diwali this year.

“The UK businesses, as well as the Indian businesses, want the equal focus to be given to non-tariff barriers, particularly the technical barriers to trade and investment,” Richard Heald, Executive Chair, UK India Business Council (UKIBC), told ANI in an interview.

He said there are a number of non-tariff barriers that both countries need to address in order to have a comprehensive trade deal. “It’s not only about tariff barriers but also non-tariff barriers,” he said.

He said the non-tariff barriers that the two countries need to address include the issues around rules of origin, harmonisation of governance and standards, confirmation of rules around intellectual property rights, and investor protection.

Heald, who served as chief executive officer of UKIBC from 2010 to 2020, said addressing the non-tariff barriers would “give the free trade agreement absolute credibility as far as the businesses are concerned, both in the UK and India.”

India and the UK announced their intention to have a comprehensive free trade agreement during a virtual summit held in May 2021 between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson. Formal negotiations on the proposed FTA between the two countries started early this year.

The third round of talk was held on May 6 in a hybrid mode with some of the teams meeting in New Delhi and the majority joining virtually.

During the third round of negotiations, “draft treaty text was advanced across the majority of chapters. Technical experts from both sides came together for discussions in 60 separate sessions covering 23 policy areas,” as per a joint statement released after the meeting.

India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal visited London in the last week of May to take the negotiations forward. After the meetings with UK negotiators, Goyal had expressed hope that the FTA would be signed by Diwali.

The fourth round of negotiations is due to be hosted by the UK this month.

During a summit meeting held in April 2022, prime ministers of India and the United Kingdom set the timeline of Diwali 2022 (October 24) for formalisation of the FTA.

On the expectation of meeting the Diwali deadline, Heald said the leadership of the two countries has shown a strong political will to meet the deadline.

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First round of FTA talks ‘productive’: UK and India

During the first round, technical experts from both sides came together for discussions in 32 separate sessions covering 26 policy areas, reports Asian Lite Newsdesk

India and the UK have concluded the first round of talks for an India-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on Friday.

On January 13, 2022, India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal launched the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with the United Kingdom along with Anne-Marie Trevelyan, UK Secretary of State for International Trade in New Delhi.

The FTA is expected to facilitate the target of doubling bilateral trade between India and the United Kingdom by 2030, set by the Prime Ministers of both the nations, Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson in May 2021.

“It’s been a busy week for our negotiators – today we wrapped up round one talks on an FTA with India,” Anne-Marie Trevelyan tweeted.

“Our experts made great progress on key UK priorities including services, sustainability, trade and development and digital,” she added.

Both sides acknowledged the importance of ensuring this first round – held virtually over 2 weeks – could proceed despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the first round of talks, technical experts from both sides came together for discussions in 32 separate sessions covering 26 policy areas including: Trade in Goods, Trade in Services including Financial Services & Telecommunications, Investment, Intellectual Property, Customs and Trade Facilitation, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, Technical Barriers to Trade, Competition, Gender, Government Procurement, SMEs, Sustainability, Transparency, Trade and Development, Geographical Indicators and Digital.

“The negotiations were productive and reflected our shared ambition to secure a comprehensive deal to boost trade between the 5th and 6th largest economies in the world,” the UK Department for International Trade said in a statement.

“The positive discussions in round one have laid the groundwork for the UK and India to make positive and efficient progress,” it added. The second round of negotiations is due to take place on 7-18 March 2022.

On January 13, 2022, Piyush Goyal and Anne-Marie Trevelyan launched the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations in New Delhi.

Both teams maintain a shared ambition to conclude negotiations by the end of 2022 – as part of both sides’ efforts to secure a comprehensive agreement, Chief Negotiators will continue to consider the benefits of an Interim Agreement, the statement added.

India’s Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal had earlier said India-UK strategic and trade relationship has been boosted with the recent Free Trade Agreement (FTA) enacted between the two countries.

Earlier, the contours of the FTA was envisaged when Anne-Marie Trevelyan and India’s Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal met on January 13, 2022 for the 15th meeting of the India-UK Joint Economic and Trade Committee.

Goyal also said that both India and UK are committed to concluding negotiations on a comprehensive and balanced FTA, with the ambition to close negotiations by the end of 2022, including consideration of an Interim Trade Agreement to achieve early gains.

Also, he mentioned that India recognizes that the launch of the FTA marks a new phase in our strategic and trade relationship, delivering gains for both countries whilst building upon the bilateral commitments we have made to date.

On 7 October 2021, both India and UK met for the Fourth UK-India Multilateral Trade Dialogue (MTD), to build mutual understanding and cooperation to continue strengthening cooperation at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

On the occasion of India’s 73rd Republic Day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had recalled the Free Trade Agreement between India and the UK and also the joint manufacturing of Corona vaccine by the Oxford-AstraZeneca.

“The UK and India are tied by deep bonds that span through the generations and across some of the greatest modern day challenges we have faced. That is why I want to send my best wishes on behalf of the United Kingdom to the people of India, and to all the British Indians in the UK, on India’s Republic Day.”

“As two diverse democracies, I am proud of our strong friendship, demonstrated by the launch of free trade negotiations this month and our partnership manufacturing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. I look forward to fortifying those bonds as we bring our ambitions, people and economies together to prosper for the next 75 years and beyond.” the message read.

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Brexit Britain Seeks Free Trade Agreement With India

Indian Minister Piyush Goyal discusses FTA matters with his British counterpart Secretary of State  Ms Elizabeth Truss. Interim Agreement to allow both the countries to harvest early gains in some select commodities and services … reports Asian Lite News

Brexit Britain and India are keen to strike a deal on trade. They are aiming to launch talks on FTA by November 2021.

The proposed FTA between India & UK is expected to unlock extraordinary business opportunities and generate jobs. Both sides have renewed their commitment to boosting trade in a manner that benefits all.

Mr Piyush Goyal, Indian Minister for Commerce & Industry, Textiles, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution

Two sides looking for an Interim Agreement as a priority and later a Comprehensive Agreement.

The matter came up during the discussions held between Indian Minister Piyush Goyal and his British counterpart Secretary of State, Elizabeth Truss on FTA and other trade matters.

Speaking on the occasion Mr Goyal, Union Minister for Commerce & Industry, Textiles, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, said that there is tremendous interest in the business community in both countries India & UK about this FTA.

British Minister Truss tweeted sharing talks with Mr Goyal. “Today Piyush Goyal and I launched trade working groups to lay the groundwork for our forthcoming UK-India trade deal, which will boost access to more than a billion consumers; bolster our science and tech industries and support jobs in both countries.”

Mr Goyal said that since the ‘Declaration’ on the launch of Enhanced Trade Partnership, announced by Prime Ministers on 4th May 2021, both countries have made substantial progress on various aspects of the partnership.

The Indian Minister said that there is a keenness to have an early conclusion of negotiations for quick and early economic benefits to businesses on both sides. Shri Goyal added that Substantial work has already been done and extensive stakeholder consultations have been held involving   Industry / Business associations, Export Promotion Councils, Buyers/Sellers Associations, Regulatory Bodies, Ministries/Departments, public research bodies, etc. The consultation paper was also made public for wider participation as well.

Mr Goyal said that BWGs for different tracks have been formed to understand the ambitions, interests and sensitivities of each other to facilitate accelerated progress during negotiations. The meetings of these BWGs are presently in progress and are likely to be completed by September 2021.

He said that he was hopeful that these BWG discussions would help both sides in understanding each other’s policy regimes and would put us in a better position when both sides begin their Joint Scoping discussions, beginning on 1st October 2021, for finalizing the TORs for the launch of negotiations in November.

Mr Goyal said that an Interim Trade Agreement, as the first step of an FTA would allow both of us to immensely benefit from the early gains of the partnership.

Union Minister of Railways and Commerce, Piyush Goyal (Photo: Kuntal Chakrabarty/IANS)

In services, certain services of mutual interest may be included in the Interim Agreement through a request offer approach wherein we may include priority sectors that are immediately deliverable. If necessary, we may also explore the signing of few Mutual Recognition Agreements in selective services like nursing and architecture services.

Mr Goyal emphasised the need to strike a balance between commitments & concessions in goods and services.

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