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Diwali no longer deadline for India trade deal: UK Minister

The free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with India are no longer working towards a Diwali deadline, UK Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch has said. The Cabinet minister said while the negotiations are "progressing well", signing a draft agreement by October 24, as declared by former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is no longer the goal.

"We are close. We're still working on a deal. One of the things that has changed is that we are no longer working to the Diwali deadline,” Badenoch told the BBC during a Scotland visit.

“We've closed a lot of chapters... The negotiations are progressing well. But we want to focus on the quality of the deal rather than the speed of the deal," she said.

During a visit to the Glenkinchie Scotch whisky distillery near Edinburgh on October 13, the minister in charge of the Department for International Trade (DIT) said the deal being lined up with India would bring great wins for the industry as the steep tariffs of up to 150 per cent are set to be slashed. 

“As we line up deals with huge markets around the globe, including India and CPTPP [Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership], I can’t wait to celebrate the even greater wins which lie ahead,” Badenoch said in a statement.

The DIT added the FTA being negotiated could lower tariffs and simplify other issues like customs to help Scottish distilleries sell more to India.  The UK exported £146 million worth of whisky to India last year from distilleries such as Glenkinchie but faced steep tariffs of up to 150 per cent. 

With India forecast to become the world’s third-largest economy with a middle class of a quarter of a billion by 2050, any greater access to the market could be hugely significant for UK businesses, DIT claims.

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