Sir Gerry Grimstone’s remarks to JETCO

By UK India Business Council (UKIBC)

Sir Gerry Grimstone, Chair of the UK India CEO Forum since 2015, shares with UKIBC his opening remarks made to the Joint Economic and Trade Committee Plenary session in the presence of UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Dr Liam Fox, Indian Minister of Commerce, Mr Piyush Goyal, and UK Deputy Trade Commissioner for South Asia, Rhiannon Harries.

“There is a great deal of political uncertainty and change in the UK, but there is absolute clarity and continuity from the business community.

UK interest in India is undiminished. If anything, there is currently even more interest in India. Partly as businesses look at expanding into high growth markets, and largely because of the growth and stability in India brought by Mr Modi and his team, including you Mr Goyal.

UK businesses are significant investors in India. Indeed, the UK has been the top G20 investor in India in the last decade. UK companies employ some 800,000 people in India, a staggering 1 in 20 people in the organised private sector. Nevertheless, there is scope to grow the flow of trade and investment and, with the UK preparing to leave the EU, we now have a unique opportunity to do it.

Through the UK-India CEO Forum, we are promoting a range of reforms and initiatives that we think will make a major difference to the bilateral relationship. Ajay will shortly set-out some of these, but I will touch on a few now.

When Mr Modi was in London in April last year, the UK-India Tech Partnership was launched. We very much welcome this initiative, not least as the Forum has been majoring on various aspects of UK-India tech collaboration since we had our first meeting in 2015.

At our 2018 meeting with the PMs, we talked about data, and how there is a great opportunity for the UK and India to partner by establishing a Common Data Agreement, which would facilitate the smooth flow of digital trade between our two countries and, we believe, become a global benchmark. Such an agreement would impact all sectors, including manufacturing which is increasingly digital, and it will be a tremendous boost to the fintech industry – a subject we will be exploring in great detail at the India day conference at Mansion House tomorrow.

At the Forum, we also talked about the impressive improvements in the Ease of Doing Business in India. Much has been done but, of course, there is much to do for India to continue to increase its attractiveness to foreign investors. For example, the Forum believes that the Government of India should make further improvements to the tax regime and the way tax disputes are managed. Full compliance with international arbitration decisions, alongside developing a fair, and predictable tax regime that further improves and simplifies the commendable GST introduced in 2016 will go a long way to reassuring global investors.

Finally, Ministers, I would like to commend you on the work you are doing at this JETCO and the Joint Trade Review. I’m particularly pleased that business engagement is an important aspect of the work you and your teams are doing. If there is anything you would like the CEO Forum to do to complement this work, please do let us know.

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