India and the UK are launching talks on pursuing a free-trade deal that is expected to boost bilateral trade by billions of US dollars in one of the most ambitious negotiations to take place after Brexit.
British Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan is in New Delhi and is to meet with Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal.
Negotiations are to start next week, officials said.
Both sides hope that a deal would spark huge benefits for several industries, from food and drink to cutting-edge renewable technology.
The deal could potentially double British exports to India and boost two-way trade by US$38 billion per year by 2035, a British government statement said.
“A deal with India is a golden opportunity to put UK businesses at the front of the queue as the Indian economy continues to grow rapidly,” Trevalyan said, adding that Britain was keen to tap into the growing middle class in Asia’s third-largest economy.
Her visit signals efforts from Britain, after leaving the EU in 2020, to focus its trade policies on the Indo-Pacific region. India, once a British colony, is viewed as a favorable location given uncertainties over ties with China.
Investment from Indian companies supports 95,000 jobs across the UK, the statement said.
Britain is angling for a deal that slashes barriers to doing business and trading, including cutting tariffs on exports of British-made vehicles and Scotch whisky.
In an interview with the Financial Times on Thursday, Trevelyan said: “Everything is on the table to discuss,” including broadening visa access for Indian students and skilled workers.
She would like for a deal to be clinched by early next year, Trevelyan said.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that India and Britain are focusing on five key areas: people-to-people contacts, trade, defense and security, climate action and health.
India and Britain have extensive links, with the former investing in 120 projects to become the second-largest source of foreign direct investments after the US in 2019.
Trade between the two countries was US$15.45 billion in 2019 to 2020.
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