India-UK FTA draft treaty advanced in majority of chapters

London, May 11 (PTI) The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations between India and the UK have resulted in the draft treaty text advancing across the majority of chapters at the end of the third round of talks, the British government said on Wednesday.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) issued a “Joint Outcome Statement” at the end of the latest round of technical talks between the negotiators on both sides, which was held in New Delhi in a hybrid fashion.

The experts held 60 separate sessions in-person and virtually to cover 23 policy areas, with the fourth round of talks now scheduled to be hosted by the UK next month.

“On 6 May 2022, the Republic of India and the United Kingdom concluded the third round of talks for an India-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the statement read.

“Negotiation officials undertook these technical talks in a hybrid fashion with some of the teams meeting in New Delhi and the majority joining virtually. For this round of negotiations, draft treaty text was advanced across the majority of chapters. Technical experts from both sides came together for discussions in 60 separate sessions covering 23 policy areas, it said.

In the first two rounds since the FTA talks began in January, four out of 26 chapters have already been agreed upon and those close to the negotiations said that there had been significant progress in the remaining 22 chapters.

During his visit to India last month, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had announced that the negotiating teams on both sides must work towards a Diwali timeline for the completion of a draft agreement. The new target of October 24 brings forward from the previous timeline of concluding FTA talks by the end of this year.

“This could double our trade and investment by the end of the decade, driving down prices for consumers, and increasing wages across the UK by as much as GBP 3 billion, Johnson said at the time.

Indian High Commissioner to the UK Gaitri Issar Kumar has said that officials have been working round-the-clock towards the deadline and Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal is also scheduled for a UK visit at the end of this month to hold discussions with stakeholders to move things along.

“The minister is leading the negotiations on the Indian side on achieving the target of doubling our bilateral trade by 2030, said Kumar, with reference to the ministerial visit planned for May 27.

“He has offered to come to London and speak to explain what’s in store for both sides at a roundtable, where stakeholders from business and industry will get an opportunity to weigh in where necessary. So far, the feedback from the Chief Negotiators is that things are very cordial and going in the right direction, she said.

Earlier this week, a new UK India Industry Taskforce was also announced by the industry bodies on both sides as a joint commission to increase cross-industry collaboration to push the UK-India FTA over the line.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) say their Taskforce will provide oversight and meet ahead of key milestones to reflect views on trade-offs, breakdown barriers to market access and help feed in on-the-ground business intelligence at a ministerial level in both countries.