Despite setback, India and UK officials hope to conclude trade pact talks soon


Trade and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and former UK Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan at the launch of negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement between India and the United Kingdom, in New Delhi. File | Photo credit: PTI

Despite a setback in trade negotiations more comments from the UK Home Secretary Last week, officials from the UK and India said they hoped to conclude the India-UK free trade deal soon enough, if not before its ‘Deepavali deadline’. october. Officials have confirmed The Hindu that a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled for early November, when a framework FTA would be signed between the Prime Minister and British Prime Minister Liz Truss on broad areas of agreement, while other unresolved issues would be dealt with later.

Asked on Wednesday whether the UK government still hoped to get the deal through Deepavali (October 24), Ms Truss’s spokesman said: ‘Yes, we are working on this high ambition free trade deal which would put the UK first. of the queue to supply India’s growing middle class,” according to the Reuters Press Agency.

Read also | British Prime Minister Liz Truss hands trade minister post to Rishi Sunak ally

In the written responses to The Hinduthe spokesperson for the UK Department for International Trade said the FTA was a “high ambition* deal and that he would not comment on ‘live negotiations’. we have a deal that meets the interests of both countries” , the spokesperson added.

Talks between Indian and British trade officials suffered a setback after British Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s critical comments last week on illegal Indian migrants, which India had opposed. Meanwhile, outstanding issues including mobility, data localization regulations, reduced tariffs on Scotch whiskey as well as access to legal services remain unresolved, despite a top push from both sides to complete the deal that was contemplated at the Modi-Johnson summit in April this year, and due by Deepavali.

“There are several sticking points on both sides. From the UK side they are pushing India to allow financial and legal services for UK businesses while from India they are pushing for a favorable immigration and visa regime,” a person familiar with the matter told The Hindu. the developments.

The official added that the remarks and stance taken by new UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who had expressed “reservations” about a deal that would increase Indian migration and mobility, did not only aggravate the contentious issue of mobility and immigration and liberal visas. regime for the Indian side, and that India remained committed to mobility issues being an important part of the FTA.

Wednesday, the UK-based company Time The newspaper had even said that the FTA talks were on the “verge of collapse”, citing Indian government officials who wanted Prime Minister Truss to publicly distance herself from Ms Braverman’s remarks.

Additionally, a row has erupted over India’s decision not to reinstate e-visas for UK citizens, possibly in response to the UK’s lengthy visa delays, which has resulted in complaints and cancellations by thousands of British travelers and business people, diplomats said.

Read also | Ahead of trade deal, UK firms urge India to untangle ‘frustrating’ red tape

The sources, however, said that despite the differences, the two sides decided to sign a “wider FTA” at the earliest while continuing to negotiate on the sticking points, and even indicated that Mr Modi could be in the UK. United as of November 7. -8.

According to other government sources, PM Modi has a busy travel schedule after that, given the G-20 summit in Bali in mid-November, as well as a possible visit to Moscow for the annual summit with Mr. Putin, a trip to the United States to chair a meeting of the UN Security Council during India’s presidential month in December as well as a possible visit to Washington. In addition, assembly elections in December in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh are also expected to take up much of Mr Modi’s calendar.

During the visit to London, Mr Modi is also expected to meet Britain’s King Charles III and personally offer his condolences on the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth. Earlier this year, a visit by then Prince Charles was proposed to India and Pakistan for November, as they celebrated 75 years of independence, but was postponed due to scheduling issues.


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