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The U.K.-India relationship is alive with opportunity

Updated - August 24, 2023 09:44 am IST

Published - August 24, 2023 05:35 am IST

Their strong partnership extends far beyond trade and investment into culture, sport, education and tourism too

‘It is no secret that the U.K. and India share a thriving trading relationship’ | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It is fantastic to see India, the world’s largest democracy, take the global stage as host of the G-20, a vital forum for fostering international cooperation. The United Kingdom has long held the belief in trade as a force for growth and prosperity. It is why we advocate for free and fair trade at the World Trade Organization and why we are taking advantage of our newly recovered powers to forge trade deals with booming economies such as India. Collaboration on issues such as global value chains resilience and digitalisation of trade documents is key to harnessing the true value of global trade.

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As India’s middle class grows to a quarter of a billion middle class consumers by 2050, any improvements on our current trading relationship could be a huge boost for U.K. businesses. It is no secret that the U.K. and India share a thriving trading relationship, which was worth £36 billion in 2022.

New figures from the U.K.’s Department for Business and Trade reveal that India retained its position as the U.K.’s second largest source of investment projects in the last financial year, with 118 new projects creating 8,384 new jobs across the U.K. And, importantly, our trade and investment relationship goes both ways. In fact, as India’s sixth largest investor, between April 2000 and March 2023, the U.K. has invested $34 billion in India in foreign direct investment. U.K. companies are also creating jobs and growth opportunities. There are 618 U.K. companies in India with a combined turnover of around $50 billion employing about 466,640 people directly as of 2021.

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The ambitious FTA, a strong partnership

While in India, I will be meeting with Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal to discuss progress on an ambitious Free Trade Agreement, which could boost our bilateral trading relationship even further.

The U.K. has proven we can negotiate ambitious trade deals, and I want to move at pace to secure a deal with India, but there are still complex talks ahead on areas including goods, services, and investment — all of which will take time. What we want is a deal that is fair, works for both sides, and benefits businesses. And our business relationship is going from strength to strength. Just last month, the U.K. was chosen as the home of Tata Group’s first gigafactory outside India, in a move set to create thousands of jobs and bring a huge boost to the U.K.’s automotive sector. And I am pleased to be meeting with Tata Chair Natarajan Chandrasekaran, following their £4 billion investment, while I am here.

But the U.K. and India’s strong partnership extends far beyond trade and investment into culture, sport, education and tourism too. To borrow a phrase from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there is very much a ‘living bridge’ between our nations — you only have to look at our shared love of Bollywood to see this in action. As one of Bollywood’s largest audiences outside of India, the U.K. has featured in some of Bollywood’s iconic films such as Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, which was shot in around London’s St Paul’s Cathedral and Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, and remains a popular filming destination today; blockbuster Bade Miyan Chote Miyan was filming in Scotland’s spectacular highlands earlier this year.

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A vibrant Indian diaspora of over 1.6 million people makes a significant contribution across all walks of life in the U.K., from education through to the workforce, with Indian students making up one of the U.K.’s largest groups of international students.

Marketing campaign

That is why I am proud to announce that the U.K. is launching ‘Alive with Opportunity’, a £1.5 million marketing campaign designed to showcase the tremendous bond between our countries and build on the continuous exchange of people, ideas and culture. As part of the U.K.’s ambitions to double trade with India by 2030, the campaign aims to stimulate interest and demand for U.K. goods and services, increase the U.K.’s ability to grow their business through trade with India, and attract new Indian inward investment. Over the course of the next year you can expect to see a celebration of the business, trade, cultural, and sporting links between the U.K. and India across billboards shining a light on this relationship which is very much alive with opportunity.

Kemi Badenoch is the United Kingdom’s Business and Trade Secretary

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