India-UK FTA Expected to Conclude by March Next Year

India and UK have been negotiating a free trade agreement since January but it’s now likely to be concluded in March 2023. The negotiations were initially planned to be concluded by Diwali, October 24, but due to the political changes in the UK, the process took longer than expected.

According to a report, India and UK will conclude discussions on the free trade agreement (FTA) in March of next year. The UK is seeking duty concessions for Scotch whiskey and automobiles. New Delhi is looking for easy business and temporary visa norms for skilled professionals. Additionally, the elimination or reduction of customs duty would also help Indian labour-intensive sectors like textiles, leather, gems and jewellery to boost exports in the UK.

The negotiations first started in January this year. At the time, it was expected that the discussions will be concluded by October 24. However, things did not go as planned. The UK saw multiple changes in its government. Liz Truss was removed from office after the shortest period as a Prime Minister. Rishi Sunak was recently appointed as the first Indian-origin Hindu to take on the role.

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After his appointment, Sunak spoke with Indian PM Narendra Modi and both agreed on reaching a conclusion to the FTA quickly. More recently, Boris Johnson said, “Let us finally deliver that free trade agreement which mysteriously seems to have developed a flat tyre since I left office. Prime Minister Modi and I said it will be done by Diwali. I’m not going to wait till the next Diwali before we do that free trade deal. I wonder what the holdup is.”

Johnson was present in Gujarat for the HT Leadership Summit where he stated that inter-country relations were on a “phenomenal upward trajectory” now that Indian-origin Rishi Sunak has been appointed as the Prime Minister of the UK.

India’s major exports to the UK are ready-made garments and textiles, engineering goods, gems and jewellery, transport equipment and parts, petroleum and petrochemical products, marine items, machinery and instruments, spices, pharma, and metal products. In 2021-2022, the bilateral trade between India and UK increased to $17.5 billion compared to $13.2 billion in 2020-2021.

Vineet Washington

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