India and Britain are starting talks on pursuing a free trade agreement that is expected to boost bilateral trade by billions of dollars in one of the most ambitious negotiations to take place after Britain’s exit from the European Union.
British International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan is in New Delhi and will meet with Piyush Goyal, India’s Minister for Trade, Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food, General Distribution and Textiles. Officials said that actual negotiations will begin next week.
Both sides hope the deal will bring huge benefits to many industries, from food and drink to the latest renewable technologies.
A British government statement said the deal could double UK exports to India and boost two-way trade by $38 billion (€33.2 billion) a year by 2035.
“The deal with India is a golden opportunity to put British companies at the front of the queue as the Indian economy continues to grow rapidly,” Trevalian said, adding that Britain was keen to take advantage of the growing middle class in Asia’s third largest economy. .
Her visit points to efforts by Britain, after leaving the European Union in 2016, to focus its trade policies in the Indo-Pacific region. India, once a British colony, is seen as a favorable location due to suspicions about relations with China.
The statement said investment from Indian companies is already supporting 95,000 jobs across the UK.
Britain is seeking a deal that lowers barriers to doing business and trade, including lowering tariffs on exports of British-made cars and Scotch whiskey.
In an interview with the Financial Times on Thursday, Trevelyan said “everything is up for discussion”, including expanding visas for Indian students and skilled workers. She said she would like to seal a deal by early 2023.
According to India’s Ministry of External Affairs, India and Britain focus on five major areas, people’s communications, trade, defense and security, climate action and health.
India and Britain have extensive connections, with the former investing in 120 projects to become the second largest source of foreign direct investment after the United States in 2019. Trade between the two countries reached $15.45 billion (€13.5 billion) in 2019-20.