As the UK-India Partnership evolves, how should G2G dialogue evolve?

By Surbhi Mathur

“The voice of business is important in evolving bilateral relations between two countries” - this was the take home message from UKIBC’s Leadership Insight Roundtable on 3 September 2019 in New Delhi.

UKIBC members believe that the Government of India’s focus on the Ease of Doing Business encourages foreign investments and underlines the narrative on which to build UK-India bilateral relations moving forward.

This resonated with the Joint Secretary of the Department of Commerce, Ms. Nidhi Tripathi, who met with a group of UKIBC members at our Roundtable.

The recent announcement that the DPIIT will extend its Ease of Doing Business operations to the District level demonstrates resolve to improve the operating environment at all levels whether at the Central, State, District levels.

This gives British industry confidence in the long-term opportunity India presents, and underscores the need for Ease of Doing Business to drive forward bilateral relations. Indeed, many would argue that sustained efforts to improve the operating environment in India is a higher priority than a post-Brexit free trade agreement.

An important aspect of this, as the Joint Secretary reflected, is direct Government engagement with the businesses themselves in order to fully understand not only the challenges, but also the solutions.

This is why the UKIBC is this year teaming up with the World Bank to enhance our annual ‘Doing Business in India’ survey and dig deeper into the market access barriers UK businesses face. Watch this space for our survey, due to be launched soon.

The UK and India are important partners, as reflected by the visit of Minister of Commerce Piyush Goyal to the UK in July to attend the Joint Economic Trade Committee (JETCO) – the first and arguably  the most successful bilateral trade committees the UK has of its kind in the world.

It is through forums such as JETCO and the CEO Forum that businesses play an instrumental role in bringing the Governments on to the same page as evidenced by the launch of three sector-specific, business-led working groups at JETCO in July, now fully swinging into action.

Echoing similar thoughts, Head of Trade Policy at the British High Commission in India, Mr Seb Down, reiterated at our Roundtable that whilst both UK and Indian Governments are on the same page when it comes to the principles of economic and trade cooperation, resolving the issues is not straightforward. Success is therefore rooted in continuous G2G and G2B interaction in order to help set right the priorities and resolve barriers to trade.

Though a full UK-India Free Trade Agreement is currently some way off, India appears keen to expand bilateral relations with the UK post-Brexit based on mutually beneficial sectoral cooperation.

This is an ongoing process, with some sectors already identified as clear opportunities including healthcare, food and drink, and digital technology, other sectors will come into focus.

To facilitate the immense opportunities that exist for deeper collaboration in these sectors, businesses eagerly await key reforms. These include intuitive, liberal, and sector-agnostic data localisation provisions, an agreement for the mutual recognition of degrees between the UK and India, easing regulatory burden for SMEs, and national insurance exemptions for temporary workers from India to the UK.

 

Although India still presents a complex market for foreign investors, the Government’s focus on the ease of doing business has the potential to demystify and cut through multiple barriers to entry and expansion.

As our Roundtable made clear, this is a process that cannot simply be achieved through G2G dialogues – G2G platforms need the direct input of businesses on both sides if they are to efficiently target and tackle the barriers that matter.

 

 


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