Webinar: Latest developments on the UK-India Free Trade Agreement negotiations

By UK India Business Council (UKIBC)

6 July: The UK India Business Council organised a Webinar in partnership with EY India and HSBC India to discuss progress of the UK-India Trade negotiations, which has undergone four rounds of negotiation rounds since launching in January 2022.

For this webinar, we had the presence of Ms Kate Thornley, Deputy Chief Negotiator UK – India FTA, DIT along with industry experts from HSBC – Ms Aayushi Chaudhary, EY – Mr Agneshwar Sen and University of Sussex – Dr Amrita Saha as the panellists, which was moderated by UKIBC Executive Chair Mr Richard Heald.

Mr Chris Heyes, Director UKIBC, opened the session by laying down the importance of UK and India bilateral relations and how the FTA would be instrumental in strengthening the trade and investment relations between the two countries.

Ms Aayushi Chaudhary, HSBC, illustrated how the UK-India FTA could benefit India in terms of diversifying its exports, increasing productive capacity, improve market access and support the further integration of the Indian economy in global value chains. She highlighted India’s need for export diversification and also spoke of the propensity for greater UK-India collaboration in futuristic sectors such a solar, EVs, green technologies, etc.

Aayushi highlighted India’s recent growth of above 6% the pre-pandemic levels coupled with long-term increase in market share for high skilled exports in sectors such as pharma, mobile phone manufacturing and machinery had been possible due to positive policy interventions by the Indian government such as introduction of PLI Scheme, adoption of digitisation etc. India’s digital start up sector is strong, with a fintech adoption rate of 87%, compared to the global average of 64%.

Following the fourth round of negotiations held in June, Ms Kate Thornley reiterated the Government’s shared ambition for a wide and ambitious UK-India FTA spanning across “traditional FTA” areas such as tariffs, services, and investments, as well as innovation, gender and other developmental goals. Sharing the progress of the FTA she highlighted that the teams have now arrived at areas which involve tricky and sensitive points. Positivity remains nonetheless, thanks to the shared goal between the Governments to bring down barriers to ensure a seamless flow of trade and investment. The gamechanger here is the rapport, trust and relationships between the polity, negotiating teams and seniors across Government, which is an important factor driving the negotiations.

Agreeing with Kate thoughts, Agneshwar Sen expressed his optimism for a UK-India FTA by Diwali, the target date set at the recent PM bilateral in Delhi in April. According to him this FTA will be comprehensive, which will cover areas of trade, finance, services, technical barriers, digital trade services, innovations etc. which have not been taken under other FTA negotiations which India has recently finalised.

Dr Amrita Saha highlighted how the FTA will be representative of a broader trade and developmental partnership given that India is an emerging superpower but also has pervasive poverty, and gender inequality. Textiles would be a good example where we see FTA having a positive impact across trade and poverty reduction, with tariff reduction leading to job creation, capacity building for women and overcoming gender disparity.

All the speakers agreed and were optimistic about the timeline announced by the two Prime Ministers of October 2022 for finalising the FTA, which is expected to provide certainty and transparency to businesses.

You can watch the webinar below:

The fifth round of negotiations are expected to take place later this month.

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