India moves ahead with its UK, EU trade pacts

NEW DELHI: India is moving ahead with the next round of free trade agreements (FTAs) with commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal in the UK to push ahead with talks, following his meeting with EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, who said that the two partners will formally launch negotiations soon.
The two trade agreements, along with those with Canada and Israel, are currently on the table. Switzerland is also suggesting that stalled negotiations for an agreement with European Free Trade Association (EFTA) should be revived. Apart from Switzerland, EFTA includes Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
India has signed two trade agreements in recent months, with the UAE and Australia, shunning its decade-long reluctance to enter into bilateral deals. Through these treaties, the government is hoping to boost trade and drive investments into the economy.
The UK is the next focus with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson setting a Diwali deadline for the talks to conclude. Businesses too are keen for the deal to come through quickly.
“They are trying to do something that is not just fast but also comprehensive, which also includes digital and other areas,” said Kevin McCole, managing director, UK India Business Council (UKIBC).
He said that from the Indian side, there were high hopes that the UK will reduce tariffs on textiles, which will increase competitiveness with respect to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. From the UK side, much focus is on very high tariffs on automotive and alcohol and Scotch, given that tariffs are at 150%, McCole added.
“Before the negotiations, there is a lot of positivity and commonality. There is a lot of pragmatism as they will focus on areas where they will agree. When you come to the last few chapters, it tends to become a bit sticky. But based on our discussions, we are positive on a deal being done this year,” he said.
The UKIBC MD also sought a focus on issues around labour standards, while maintaining that migration and visas were a sensitive area in the past but the UK has changed rules in recent years.


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