Commerce secretary visiting U.K. for FTA talks

During the visit scheduled for July 17 and 18, the Secretary will hold discussions with senior British officials about the proposed trade agreement

July 16, 2023 09:35 pm | Updated 09:35 pm IST - New Delhi

Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal. Photo: TWitter/@ANI

Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal. Photo: TWitter/@ANI

Following the Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal’s recent Britain visit, Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal is visiting London this week to take stock of the negotiations for a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with the U.K., an official said.

Also Read | India-U.K. FTA: Half the chapters in pact agreed on

During the visit scheduled for July 17 and 18, the Secretary will hold discussions with senior British officials about the proposed trade agreement.

A negotiating team from India is already in London for the eleventh round of talks.

Mr. Goyal concluded his Britain visit on July 12.

The official said that both visits are important as the talks are at a crucial stage.

With the FTA negotiations gaining momentum, the visit aims to further propel the discussions and pave the way for a comprehensive and mutually beneficial agreement that would drive economic growth and strengthen ties between the two countries.

Also Read | India-U.K. FTA talks progress encouraging, says British industry expert

India and the U.K. are working to iron out differences on issues like Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and Rules of Origin under the agreement, negotiations for which started in January 2021.

Out of 26 chapters in the agreement, 14 have been closed. In five chapters there are certain contentious issues pertaining to environment, labour, and digital trade.

This agreement is the “most complex” one which will be going to be signed by India, Mr. Barthwal has said recently.

The ‘Rules of Origin’ provision prescribe the required minimal processing so that a final manufactured product may be called ‘originating goods’ in a country.

Under this provision, a country that has inked an FTA with India cannot dump goods from a third country in the Indian market by putting a label on it. It has to undertake a prescribed value addition in that product in order to export to India.

. Investment is being negotiated as a separate agreement (bilateral investment treaty) between India and the U.K. and it would be concluded simultaneously with the free trade agreement.

Also Read | British official bats for early rollout of India-UK FTA

Under such pacts, two trading partners significantly reduce or eliminate customs duties on the maximum number of goods traded between them, besides easing norms to promote trade in services and investments.

The two countries missed the deadline to finalise the deal last year due to unprecedented economic and political crises in the U.K.

Britain, with a $3.1 trillion economy, as per the World Bank, has long been a service sector powerhouse. The city of London, which is one of the world's biggest financial markets, has also long attracted Indian companies seeking to raise funds from the global market.

The Indian industry is demanding greater access for its skilled professionals in the U.K. market.

The U.K. is seeking a significant cut in the import duties on Scotch-Whisky. Britain is also looking for more opportunities for U.K. services into the Indian markets.

The bilateral trade between the countries has increased from $17.5 billion in 2021-22 to $20.36 billion in 2022-23 .

India's main exports to the U.K. are ready-made garments and textiles, gems and jewellery, engineering goods, petroleum and petrochemical products, transport equipment, spices, machinery and instruments, pharmaceuticals and marine products. The main imports include precious and semi-precious stones, ores and metal scraps, engineering goods, professional instruments other than electronics, chemicals and machinery.

In the services sector, U.K. is the largest market in Europe for Indian IT services.

In the field of investment, U.K. is one of the top investors in India. In 2022-23, India received $1.74 billion in foreign direct investment from Britain as against $one billion in 2021-22.

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