Britain and India to formally launch trade talks

Britain said the deal could almost double British exports to India. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Britain and India will on Thursday (Jan 13) formally launch free trade agreement talks in New Delhi, seeking freer movement of goods and people with a deal projected to increase bilateral trade by billions of pounds.

Britain has made a deal with India one of its post-Brexit priorities as, free from the European Union's common trade policy, ministers look to gear trade policy towards faster-growing economies around the Indo-Pacific region.

Indian Trade Minister Piyush Goyal and his British counterpart Anne-Marie Trevelyan will meet in New Delhi on Thursday, with the first round of negotiations beginning next week.

"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," Ms Trevelyan said in a statement.

Britain said the deal could almost double British exports to India, and by 2035 boost total trade by £28 billion (S$51.7 billion) a year. Total trade in 2019 was worth £23 billion, according to British statistics.

Ministers want to tap the wealth of India's middle classes and their appetite for premium British products, such as Scotch whisky. They also hope India can become a big customer of its green technology industry, and that existing service sector trade routes can be strengthened.

India and former colonial power Britain already share strong trade ties, and more than a million people of Indian origin live in Britain after decades of migration.

India is seeking greater opportunities for Indians to live and work in Britain, and any trade deal could be contingent on relaxing rules and lowering fees for Indian students and professionals going to Britain.

Lower-tariff access to Indian markets in exchange for freer movement is expected to form a key dynamic in the talks and will test Britain's negotiating power, with any concession on immigration likely to face domestic opposition.

The two parties have already negotiated an enhanced trading partnership, announced last year, and could opt to sign a limited-scope interim free trade agreement while wider negotiations continue.

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