With Liz Truss becoming new prime minister of the UK, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has expressed hope for early conclusion of talks with Britain for a free trade agreement, aimed at boosting bilateral economic ties. “A little bit of political changes may have derailed (conclusion of FTA negotiations) by few weeks, but I do hope (that) with…Liz Truss assuming prime ministership of the UK, we may now be able to make up for some lost time (to conclude the FTA negotiations),” Goyal said here on Monday while addressing members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI).
Officials in India were looking to conclude the negotiations for the trade agreement by August 31, but political developments in Britain could have slowed the talks a bit. In January, both countries formally launched talks for a free trade agreement (FTA) to boost bilateral trade and investments. It was launched when Boris Johnson was the prime minister and Truss was the international trade secretary. In such pacts, two countries either eliminate or significantly reduce customs duties on the maximum number of goods traded between them besides easing norms for promoting investments and services trade.
“We are at an advanced stage (of FTA talks) with the UK…Miss Anne-Mary, who is currently the trade and investment Minister, and I are in regular contact and we are shooting for an agreement between India and the UK within the next few months possibly by Diwali,” Goyal said. India has become one of the world’s attractive investment destinations and it is evident from the way world leaders and developed countries are making every effort to expand trade and investments into India and looking for bilateral agreement, he added.
Talks are happening on certain goods like scotch and automobiles from the UK side and certain products from the Indian side. India’s main exports to the UK include ready-made garments and textiles, gems and jewellery, engineering goods, petroleum and petrochemical products, transport equipment and parts, spices, metal products, machinery and instruments, pharma and marine items.
Major imports include precious and semi-precious stones, ores and metal scraps, engineering goods, professional instruments, non-ferrous metals, chemicals and machinery. In the services sector, the UK is one of the largest markets in Europe for Indian IT services. The bilateral trade increased to USD 17.5 billion in 2021-22 compared to USD 13.2 billion in 2020-21. India’s exports stood at USD 10.5 billion in 2021-22, while imports were USD 7 billion.