Webinar Summary: Road to a UK-India FTA

By UK India Business Council (UKIBC)

The UK India Business Council’s Kevin McCole, Managing Director, and Kealan Finnegan, Policy and Advocacy Manager, were joined by Kate Thornley, Deputy Chief Negotiator for India at Department for International Trade, and Rohit Vadhwana, First Secretary (Press, Eco & Info), High Commission of India in the UK, to discuss the respective priorities of business and update on the latest developments from the UK and Indian Governments towards the upcoming FTA negotiations.

Kate and Rohit’s corresponding remarks throughout the webinar made it clear that the UK and Indian Governments are aligned on their approach and share a mutual ambition and optimism ahead of trade negotiations.

In particular, it was welcome to hear that both Governments are in line with the views of business that the FTA process should be:

  • Comprehensive, both in cutting across sectors, and in covering both trade and investment.
  • One which spans a broad range of policy areas, considering opportunities within that for wins
  • Contribute to the wider development agenda including on energy and in education.

The governments are currently scoping policy areas in preparation for the launch of negotiations following respective business consultations and continued engagement with working groups. Kevin and Kealan outlined the UKIBC’s key priorities on behalf of businesses for the Governments, following the UKIBC’s consultations with over 200 businesses, of all sizes and sectors, throughout the UK in July and August.

Kealan picked up on the key priorities and the overarching recommendations of the UKIBC, namely, three core areas for reform – reducing tariffs, reducing non-tariff barriers including greater standards alignment and simplifying customs procedures, and IP and data protection. The UKIBC’s full list of recommendations and priority areas can be viewed in our submission summary document: Road to a UK-India FTA: Consulting UK Businesses on Doing Business in India.

It was also made clear that investor protection should be enveloped in the trade deal to add credibility and security for investors in both countries, building on the strength of the investment relationship, with more than 570 UK businesses operating in India and over 100 Indian businesses currently operating in the UK.

The Governments of the UK and India have continued to engage with each other throughout the consultation process to share feedback on business priorities while setting their mandates and will continue to do so as they begin formal negotiations. Kate and Rohit emphasised the appetite for rapid progress shared by the Governments and formal commitments between Ministers, and the drive to deliver quickly for the benefit of businesses and consumers.

Both sides have specific and time-bound asks under the agreed Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP). The FTA will also reflect on the priorities of both sides so as to benefit industries in both countries, with Mr Vadhwana highlighting India’s priorities in Textile, Agriculture and Marine Products, and Social Security.

The UKIBC will engage with our members and clients on the Government’s approach once formally published to the public in November, as confirmed by Kate. In the meantime, we will continue to engage with our members and clients, and with both Governments, throughout the FTA process for a continuous dialogue for successful negotiations.

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