British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has told his ministers he would only reach a trade agreement with India when it benefited the whole of Britain, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
“He said negotiations around a free trade deal were progressing and that he would only agree (to) an approach which worked for the whole UK,” Sunak’s office spokesperson told reporters ahead of his visit to India for the high-profile G-20 Summit in Delhi later this week.
India and the UK have been engaged in a negotiation for a trade deal and so far twelve rounds of talks have taken place. The last round of talks took place from August 8-31.
In May this year, Sunak met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G7 Summit in Japan. They discussed progress on a UK-India free trade agreement, Sunak’s office said, adding that both leaders agreed that their teams would continue to work at pace to finalise an ambitious and mutually beneficial deal.
While the details of the last round of talks are yet to come out, Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal last month said that the 11th round of negotiations in London was “very intense” and many issues got closed. Out of the total 26 chapters in the proposed FTA, 19 had been closed. He said the investment was being negotiated as a separate agreement (bilateral investment treaty) between India and the UK.
The official also said that the main issues that could come up for discussion in the 12th round included an investment treaty, reduction of duties on auto and whiskey, rules of origin, intellectual property rights, and matters pertaining to services. The Indian industry is demanding greater access for its skilled professionals from sectors like IT, and healthcare in the UK market, besides market access for several goods at nil customs duties.
The UK, on the other hand, is seeking a significant cut in import duties on goods such as scotch whiskey, automobiles, lamb meat, and certain confectionary items. Britain is also looking for more opportunities for UK services in Indian markets in segments such as telecommunications, legal, and financial services like banking.
India and the UK’s bilateral trade has increased to $20.36 billion in 2022-23 from $17.5 billion in 2021-22.
(With inputs from PTI)