London | India and the UK have made good progress in closing chapters and the free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations are now “laser-focussed” on goods, services and investment, UK officials said on Wednesday ahead of Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch's visit to India to attend the G20 summit.
After the G20 Trade and Investment Ministerial Meeting in Jaipur, which is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, Badenoch is expected to head to New Delhi for bilateral talks with her Indian counterpart, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal. Their discussions will coincide with the ongoing twelfth round of FTA negotiations that are underway in Delhi since last week.
“The UK and India are committed to working towards the best deal possible for both sides. We've made good progress in closing chapters, and are now laser-focused on goods, services, and investment,” said a UK Department for Business and Trade (DBT) spokesperson.
“While we cannot comment on ongoing negotiations, we are clear that we will only sign when we have a deal that is fair, balanced, and ultimately in the best interests of the British people and the economy,” the spokesperson said.
Official estimates peg bilateral trade between the two countries at around GBP 36 billion in 2022, a figure expected to significantly benefit from an FTA.
According to a joint outcome statement issued at the end of Round 11 of the negotiations last month, technical discussions were held across nine policy areas over 42 separate sessions and covered detailed draft treaty text discussions. Goyal had flown into London to meet Badenoch during the last round and UK government sources said their interaction proved “helpful”.
However, they are also keen to underplay expectations of a deal being clinched any time soon, given Rishi Sunak's first visit to India as British Prime Minister next month for the G20 Leaders' Summit. There are still “complex” talks ahead on areas such as goods, services and investment, which will take time to land a deal that works for both sides, the sources indicated.
They reiterated the UK government stance around “it's the deal not the date”, which has been the mantra to distance the Sunak-led government from former prime minister Boris Johnson's proposed Diwali 2022 deadline which was missed amid political turmoil in the country.
“We want an ambitious deal that benefits us in the years and decades to come. We won't sign until we get a deal which is right,” UK government sources said.