Liam Fox urges UK & India to deepen commercial ties on three-day visit

By UK India Business Council (UKIBC)

Rt. Hon Liam Fox, the UK’s new Secretary of State for International Trade, has become the latest Government Minister to visit India, urging the two countries to: “Draw on unique bonds and shared experiences,” by enhancing commercial ties and creating a strategic partnership across trade, investment and defence.

On a three-day visit to New Delhi and Mumbai from 28 to 30 August, Dr Fox met the Indian Minister for Finance, Arun Jaitley, and Minister for Commerce, Nirmala Sitharaman, with whom he discussed opportunities for further economic cooperation with India. They also spoke about the potential for enhanced trade and investment arrangements between the UK and India in the coming years.

After their meeting, Mr Jaitley signalled another potential boost to investment ties, adding that officials from both India and the UK are jointly exploring the creation of a UK-India sub-fund under the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) umbrella. Further to this, Dr Fox offered UK assistance to India’s ‘Smart Cities’ and ‘Make in India’ programmes, pledging to provide “world-leading” expertise and capabilities.

Dr Fox also announced his participation, and the UK’s commitment to the Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO), to be held in New Delhi on 7 November alongside the India-UK TECH Summit. The Secretary of State later met with the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), Naushad Forbes, in a further move to secure improvements in UK-India business relationships in the run up to both events.

Keen to play up the potential for technology collaborations between India and the UK, Dr. Fox met with major Indian companies in the Information Technology sector including HCL and Tech Mahindra. The UK is the investment destination of choice for Indian ICT companies, and the Secretary of State discussed future investment opportunities in the UK.

In an article for India’s Economic Times, Dr Fox made his pitch to potential Indian investors in the UK, by outlining the UK’s strong system of commercial law, skilled workforce, and ‘low levels of industrial disruption,’ adding that the UK is also in the ‘right time zone for global trading.’

He went on to emphasise the key role of London in the UK-India economic relationship, highlighting the success of masala bonds, which have raised over £1 billion worth of investment, while urging India ‘to continue looking to London to finance its ambitious infrastructure plans.’

The UK is already the largest G20 investor in India, with British businesses employing 700,000 people across the country. At the same time, over 800 Indian companies operate in the UK employing more than 110,000 people. These are figures that could be set to grow substantially – if the words of Dr Fox and Mr Jaitley are followed by decisive action on both sides.

It is telling that Dr Fox has become the fourth member of Theresa May’s new post-Brexit government to visit India in the last month. Previous visits include Foreign Office Minister Alok Sharma, Business and Energy Secretary, Greg Clark and International Development Secretary, Priti Patel in July and August.

This spree of ministerial visits represents a clear signal from the UK Government that in light of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, India will become one of the UK’s key priorities for trade and investment in the years to come.

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