The UK and India are in a "sweet spot" of global trade dynamics as negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) begin in the coming weeks, according to Britain's trade minister in charge of the bilateral talks. Liz Truss, UK Secretary of State for International Trade, revealed that the public consultation process ahead of the trade negotiations attracted "huge interest from businesses across the UK and its completion last month means that FTA negotiations can now begin. Addressing a special reception hosted by the Lord Mayor of London to celebrate the UK-India Economic Partnership on Tuesday evening, the minister confirmed that both sides will hammer out the details during the upcoming visit of Commerce and Industry minister Piyush Goyal to the UK and Europe next week.
"We just completed our consultation on an Indian trade deal, which saw huge interest from businesses across the country. We are now going to begin negotiating a free trade agreement, said Truss. I see the UK and India in a sweet spot of the trade dynamics that are building up We are looking at a comprehensive trade agreement that covers everything, from financial services to legal services to digital and data, as well as goods and agriculture. We think there is strong possibility for us to get an early agreement, where we lower tariffs on both sides and start to see more goods flowing between our two countries, she said.
Pointing to the post-Brexit scenario as the UK's chance to set out an independent trade policy outside the European Union (EU), the senior Cabinet minister flagged India as the big, major opportunity ahead following 68 trade deals clinched by Britain since leaving the economic bloc. She also referenced her visit to India earlier in the year, including a tour of the Serum Institute of India (SII) in Pune which is in a UK tie-up to produce the Oxford University and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, as she highlighted collaboration in the field of science and tech as a sign of things to come as that trade route between the UK and India is deepened. "Like the UK, India is a science and tech superpower the Serum Institute of India provides two-thirds of the vaccines that inoculate children around the world. That is truly a tremendous achievement, said Truss.
Working with India will help enhance the UK's position as a global hub for digital and services. But for me it's about more than that: it's about two democracies who share values, share an approach to working together to the benefit of both of our populations, she said. "In every possible way, we have a hugely strong relationship between our two nations and all I can see is things moving in the right direction. It's vitally important that as we want to recover from the COVID crisis across the world, we see more free enterprise and free trade, she noted.
The trade minister also laid out some developing trends that hold out great promise for the India-UK relationship, including the growing digitisation of global trade. "The other big trend we are seeing is the growth in the Indo-Pacific region, where a lot of our trade negotiations are oriented towards. India is expected to have more middle-class consumers than the US by 2030, and they would want to buy the finer things that Britain supplies whether that's financial services, insurance, computer technology, high-value food and drink or indeed our advanced manufacturing products, she pointed out.
Both the minister and the Lord Mayor, William Russell, underlined the Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) agreed between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson at their virtual summit in May as setting out an ambitious roadmap to at least double bilateral trade by 2030. "The most innovative and dynamic part of our relationship is in the financial professional services and we at the City of London have done a lot to support that part of the relationship, said the Lord Mayor the leader of the financial hub of the UK capital.
"This relationship is only getting stronger, whether that's through the India-UK 2030 Roadmap announced earlier this year by our Prime Ministers or the work of individual businesses like Barclays Bank, who have invested nearly GBP 300 million to expand their operations in India, he said. Describing the bilateral ties as the investment opportunity of a generation, the Lord Mayor highlighted the key priorities for the UK-India relationship as enhanced mobility and resumption of business travel between both countries, doubling of financial professional services trade in the next decade and increased green investments to support India's sustainability and decarbonisation agenda.