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Biggest of them all: Boris Johnson on UK-India FTA

Biggest of them all: Boris Johnson on UK-India FTA
Courtesy: WPA Pool / Pool | Getty Images News Via Getty Images

As we gear up for UK-India Week 2022, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared that the free trade agreement (FTA) in the works with India would be the biggest of all for a post-Brexit Britain.

In a statement to mark the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in the Rwandan capital of Kigali this week, Johnson pointed out how the “Commonwealth advantage” adds immense value to all 54 member countries of the organisation – with India being the largest member.

He said: “The Pacific archipelago of Tuvalu (population 11,000) will be at the same table as India (population 1.3 billion). Yet for all the differences between us, we are joined by an invisible thread of shared values, history and institutions and of course the English language.

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“All of this creates a unique opportunity for Britain whereby the Commonwealth – and only the Commonwealth – combines vast and rapidly growing markets with a real and quantified trading advantage. That is why we are mobilising the UK’s regained sovereignty to sign free trade or economic partnership agreements with as many Commonwealth countries as possible. So far we’ve done 33, including Australia and New Zealand, and we’re aiming for India, the biggest of them all, by Diwali in October.”

While confirming that the October 2022 deadline for an FTA draft to be ready by Diwali remains on track, Johnson’s comment in ‘The Daily Telegraph’ also reflected upon mobilising the UK’s “regained sovereignty” after leaving the European Union (EU) to sign free trade or economic partnership agreements with as many Commonwealth countries as possible.

It was during his visit to India in April that Boris Johnson, along with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had announced that the negotiating teams on both sides must work towards a Diwali timeline for the completion of a draft free trade agreement. The teams are now in the midst of the fourth round of FTA talks. The Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Gaitri Issar Kumar, during an Indian Journalists’ Association farewell event last week for her as the outgoing envoy, confirmed that things were going well on the FTA front.

She said: “We are completing chapters so rapidly and making progress on the other chapters yet to be completed.

“The interesting thing which I learnt is that our Ministry of Commerce has opened up so many more areas to the UK, more than the other countries, and I am really happy that is happening. As the envoy of my government in the UK, I would really like to see this to be the best FTA of India with any country because I just feel there are so many complementary strengths… just the fact that we are engaging so intensively is a very good sign.”

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During a visit to the UK last month, Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal had also indicated good progress towards the Diwali deadline.

The focus of the FTA negotiations is on reducing the barriers to trade, cutting tariffs, and supporting companies to export. According to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), an FTA with India is expected to nearly double UK exports to India.

A trade deal is also expected to boost Britain’s total trade by as much as £28 billion a year by 2035 and increase wages across the UK regions by £3 billion, according to industry estimates.

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