ASHOK SHARMA, Associated Press
NEW DELHI (AP) — India and Britain on Thursday launched talks on pursuing a free trade deal that is expected to boost bilateral trade by billions of dollars in one of the most ambitious negotiations to take place after Brexit.
UK International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan met Piyush Goyal, Indian Minister for Trade and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles in New Delhi. Actual negotiations will begin next week, officials said.
“This is the first of my significant deals this year as Britain embarks on its independent post-Brexit journey,” Trevelyan told reporters.
She said the two countries have a unique opportunity to forge ties in trade. defense, climate and healthcare sectors as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Goyal said the free trade agreement, which is expected to be finalized within a year, will double trade between the two countries by 2030.
Both parties hope the agreement will generate huge benefits for multiple industries, from food and beverage to cutting-edge renewable technologies.
The Indian minister said the two sides would also work on an interim agreement to accelerate efforts to capture the low-hanging fruits in goods and services, tourism, startups, education and climate change.
The free trade deal could potentially double UK exports to India and boost two-way trade by $38 billion a year by 2035, according to a UK government statement.
When asked if the British government was willing to ease visa restrictions for Indians traveling to the country, Trevelyan said the approach was to ensure that British and Indian businesses and citizens of both countries benefit from this attempt to revitalize ties.
Goyal said “the Indian diaspora in Britain is a bridge between the two countries and can add a lot of dynamism to their relationship”.
“A deal with India is a golden opportunity to put British businesses ahead of the curve as India’s economy continues to grow rapidly,” Trevelyan said, adding Britain wanted to tap into the growing middle class. of Asia’s third largest economy. .
After leaving the European Union in 2016, Britain focused on its trade policies in the Indo-Pacific region. India, once a British colony, is seen as a favorable location given uncertainties over ties with China.
“This is the first of my significant deals this year as Britain embarks on its independent post-Brexit journey,” Trevelyan said.
Indian business investment is already supporting 95,000 jobs across the UK, according to the UK statement released ahead of the meeting.
Britain is seeking a deal that removes barriers to business and trade, including reducing tariffs on exports of British-made cars and Scotch whisky.
In an interview with the Financial Times newspaper on Thursday, Trevelyan said “everything is on the table to discuss,” including expanding visa access for Indian students and skilled workers. She said she would like a deal to be done in early 2023.
India and Britain are focusing on five key areas, people-to-people contacts, trade, defense and security, climate action and health, according to India’s External Affairs Ministry.
India and Britain enjoy close ties, with the former investing in 120 projects to become the second largest source of foreign direct investment after the United States in 2019. Trade between the two countries stood at 15.45 billion dollars in 2019-2020.
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