Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and his British counterpart Kemi Badenoch held the sixth round of discussion on the India-U.K. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which had been stalled over multiple issues, including reported Indian demand for greater number of student visas and political turmoil in the U.K.
Ms. Badenoch, who arrived on Monday, held a round of meeting with Mr. Goyal soon after landing here and continued extensive discussion till Tuesday, amidst indications that the official negotiators would meet to deliberate on the landmark trade pact in the coming new year.
“Held a bilateral meeting with U.K. Secretary of State for International Trade Kemi Badenoch. With the sixth round of India-U.K. Free Trade Agreement negotiations on, discussed how both sides can arrive at a mutually beneficial agreement to boost trade and investment ties,” said Mr. Goyal in a message after the talks.
“The Ministers urged the negotiating teams to work together with an aim to iron out the differences in the spirit of mutual accommodation based on the principle of reciprocity and respect for each other’s sensitivities, for a balanced, mutually beneficial, fair and equitable outcome,” stated an official press note put out by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry that described the discussion over the past two days as satisfactory.
Mr. Goyal presented flagship projects of the government such as National Infrastructure Pipeline, Development Finance Institution and privatisation of non-strategic sectors PSUs, and urged the businesses in India and the U.K. to “take advantages of these initiatives for economic prosperity of both countries”. The trade pact ran into trouble earlier this year because of political instability in the U.K. when Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned after a brief stint of 44 days which also jeopardised the Deepavali deadline for the trade deal that was announced by her predecessor Boris Johnson during his visit to Delhi last April.
The two-day discussion between Mr. Goyal and Ms. Badenoch therefore marks a positive turn in negotiations as the two sides came together ending doubts over a lingering deadlock. Before the meeting of the Indian Commerce and Industry Minister and the British Secretary of State for International Trade, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Rishi Sunak met on the sidelines of the Bali G-20 summit which hinted at political will for the pact. After the meeting in Bali, Mr. Modi had said in his social media account, “India attaches great importance to robust India-England ties. We discussed ways to increase commercial linkages, raise the scope of security cooperation in context of India’s defence reforms and make people to people ties even stronger.” Mr. Sunak, however, had said that the India-U.K. FTA would be a deal “where we don’t sacrifice quality for speed”.
The Trade Ministers of both sides also interacted with representatives from Indian and British business houses on Tuesday. “Both Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the ongoing India-U.K. FTA negotiations which would unlock the full potential of boosting jobs, investments and exports between the two countries,” stated the Indian official press release.
Apart from the issue of student visas, the trade pact will also have to deal with factors such as data localisation and data security. That apart, a major issue in the talks between the two teams has been the alleged British demand for changes in India’s patent regime to make it adjust to the patent regime of the U.K.