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India-UK FTA talks set to begin but fate of early harvest deal uncertain

 India and the UK are set to an-nounce the launch of negoti-ations fora bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) when British International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan's visits New Delhi later this week but there is no surety over whether the UKwill also agree to an early harvest deal on se-lect items, sources have said.

"India has been keen that an early harvest agreement, for liberalising tariffs and re-strictions on certain identi-fied items from both sides, should precede a full-fledged FTA. But the UK is not as en-thusiastic about it as it has never done such an agree-ment. There will be clarity on this next week when the Min-isterial-level meeting takes place," a person tracking the matter told BusinessLine.

India favours an early harvest agreement as it can be concluded within a few months

New Delhi favours an early harvest agreement as it can be con-cluded within a few months, while a comprehensive pact can take much longer. Items where India hopes to get enhanced market access in the UK include garments and textiles, leather products, rice, beverages and tea & cof-fee. The UK is interested in lower tariffs on Scotch whis-key and automobiles, among other things. In services, India wants easier work visas for its professionals and other work-ers. The UK is also focused on re-moval of non-tariff barriers to trade in India, as it believes that such measures applied by India outnumber those ap-plied by the country. According to an informa-tion note compiled by the UK Department for International Trade (DIT) last year, India ap-plies 193 technical barriers to trade and 236 sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions to trade.

Trade agenda Trevelyan, in her two-day visit beginning Wednesday, will hold bilateral talks with her counterpart Piyush Goyal dis-cussing multiple issues, in-cluding green (environment friendly) trade and the re-moval of market access barri-ers for both UK and Indian businesses, the DIT, UK said. She will also co-host the 15th UK-India Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) with Goyal and review the UK-India Enhanced Trade Part-nership agreed to by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and British PM Boris Johnson last May. "I will be using my visit to drive forward an ambitious trade agenda which repres-ents the UK's Indo-Pacific tilt in action and shows how we are seizing global opportunit-ies as an independent trading nation," Trevelyan said in a statement on Sunday.

The UK is interested in an FrAwith India as itseeks to en-hance trade ties with promin-ent countries following its exit from the European Union. India, on the other hand, is looking at free trade pacts with economies that are out the influence of China, as it does not want the country to route its goods into India through its FTA partners. India's exports to the UK in 2020-21 were at $8.15 billion and imports were at $4.95 billion.

14 Jan, 2022

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