Official parleys for freezing the U.K.-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) may be in the final lap, but it is hard to set a timeline for its conclusion as “the hardest bits of any negotiation tend to come towards the end”, U.K. Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said on Thursday.
While stressing that visa liberalisation did not come under the purview of trade deals as it was an immigration issue, Ms. Badenoch signalled that the two governments were exploring incorporating business to business mobility into the trade pact so that bilateral investment flows were facilitated.
“We have closed many chapters… perhaps the simpler tasks. And we are now in the final stages, I can’t give a deadline, anything could happen. But what I can say is that I’m very optimistic, and I’m working closely with my counterpart, Minister [Piyush] Goyal to make sure we can deliver something that both our countries will find mutually beneficial,” she said here.
Commerce Minister Goyal was also non-committal on a deadline for the U.K. FTA. On the likelihood of lowering import duties for U.K. automobiles and Scotch whiskeys, a key ask from the U.K., Mr. Goyal said: “Everybody presses hard for their requests and concerns. There is hardly an issue on which we are not negotiating and I assure it will be a strong and hard outcome [that] will come out of these negotiations”.