Lord Karan Bilimoria, the president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), has confirmed that the roadmap for the UK-India free trade agreement (FTA) remains on track, with talks set to kick off soon.
Addressing the CBI annual conference this week, the India-born entrepreneur and founder of Cobra Beer championed the UK as a great trading nation which is now ready to clinch a comprehensive post-Brexit trade pact with India.
Lord Bilimoria said: “For nearly four decades, all our trade deals were negotiated by the European Union. And, over the last five years, the UK’s Department for International Trade did an incredible job; it signed trade agreements with 66 non-EU countries and one with the EU. A remarkable achievement, which many thought would be impossible.
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“On top of this, the CBI, I am proud to say, has played a major role with helping with new trade agreements, such as with the UK- Australia FTA. This was followed by our FTA with New Zealand, and an enhanced trade partnership with India – with a target to double bilateral trade by 2030. Formal negotiations with India-UK FTA are starting imminently.”
High Scotch whisky and automobile tariffs on the Indian end and exorbitant visa fees on the UK end were some of the areas he flagged that will be on the agenda for talks, which the CBI – as a representative for over 190,000 UK businesses – will also be involved with.
“We are just scratching the surface with a country like India. India is the fifth largest economy in the world, emerging global economic superpower, we should be doing way more than £24 billion bilateral trade,” he said.
“That FTA I hope will be a huge benefit in enhancing bilateral trade and very comprehensive… as comprehensive as possible,” he said.
Earlier in the week, UK International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan told the Centre for Policy Studies think tank earlier this week that she is all set to launch FTA talks.
The minister said: “Between 2019 and 2050, more than half of global growth is expected to come from the Indo-Pacific. Within that, South Asia will grow particularly quickly. And India is projected to be the world’s third largest economy by 2050.
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“India is, of course, one of our most significant export markets, and I look forward to launching our trade talks soon with them.”
In May, India and the UK clinched an Enhanced Trade Partnership during a virtual summit between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson, with the goal to double bilateral trade to £50 billion by 2030.
According to the Department for International Trade (DIT), preparations for the launch of negotiations for the UK-India FTA "remain underway" since the conclusion of bilateral working groups in October. Trevelyan and Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal also held talks last month during the G20 trade ministers meeting in Sorrento, Italy, to discuss “final preparations” for the launch of UK-India FTA negotiations – expected to kick off before the end of 2021.