LONDON • Britain's business minister Sajid Javid is in India to hold post-Brexit talks on the country's future trade relationship with the South Asian nation, the first of many such discussions planned with world powers.
Following Britain's referendum vote last month to exit the European Union (EU), the nation is left with the huge task of forging fresh trade agreements with individual countries as a non-bloc member.
"Following the referendum result, my absolute priority is making sure the United Kingdom has the tools it needs to continue to compete on the global stage," Mr Javid said in a statement ahead of his visit yesterday.
"That is why I am in India today to launch these initial trade discussions. There is a strong bilateral trade relationship between our two countries and I am determined that we build on this."
Mr Javid "will kick off preliminary trade talks with India... when he meets the Indian finance and commerce ministers during a series of discussions in Delhi", the statement added.
BUILDING ON STRONG TIES
Following the referendum result, my absolute priority is making sure the United Kingdom has the tools it needs to continue to compete on the global stage. That is why I am in India today to launch these initial trade discussions. There is a strong bilateral trade relationship between our two countries and I am determined that we build on this.
BRITAIN'S BUSINESS MINISTER SAJID JAVID
"It is the first in a series of trade meetings the business secretary will conduct over the coming months, which also is expected to include trips to the United States, China, Japan and South Korea," it said.
In a tweet yesterday afternoon, Mr Javid said he had just finished meeting executives from Tata Steel in Mumbai, a major steel producer in Europe, before he headed off to Delhi for talks on trade with India.
Prime Minister David Cameron is stepping down in September, leaving the task of leading negotiations to take Britain out of the EU to his successor, who will be either Home Secretary Theresa May or Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom.
Whoever takes over will have to decide when to trigger the formal start of two years of exit negotiations with the EU, manage the trade-offs involved and lead efforts to establish new commercial relationships with countries around the world.
Mr Javid said the British government, which will be led by the new prime minister, plans to have up to 300 specialist staff by the end of the year to aid in the new trade negotiations.
According to Britain's Conservative government, last year's trade in goods and services between Britain and India stood at £16.55 billion (S$29 billion).
According to the World Trade Organisation, the EU has free trade agreements with 58 countries outside the bloc and finalising such partnerships can take years, as highlighted by the long-delayed EU-Canada deal.
Canadian and European leaders formally concluded their deal in 2014, but implementation has been put on ice owing to rising discontent in Europe over the effects of globalisation and granting too much power to big business.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG