The United Kingdom and India on Thursday launched talks on pursuing a free trade deal that is expected to lift bilateral trade by billions of dollars in one of the most ambitious negotiations to take place after Brexit.
Britain’s International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan met with Piyush Goyal, India's minister of commerce and industry, in New Delhi before formal talks next week.
“This is the first of my important agreements this year as Britain set out on her independent journey post-Brexit,″ Trevelyan told reporters.
She said the countries have a unique opportunity to build ties in trade, defense, climate and health as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Goyal said the free trade agreement, expected to be finalized in one year, will double the current trade of $50 billion by 2030. A British government statement said the deal could potentially double U.K. exports to India and boost two-way trade by $38 billion a year by 2035. Trade between the two countries was $15.45 billion in 2019-20.
Both sides hope the deal will spark huge benefits for several industries, from food and drink to cutting-edge renewable technology.
"A deal with India is a golden opportunity to put UK businesses at the front of the queue as the Indian economy continues to grow rapidly,” Trevalyan said, adding that Britain was keen to tap into the growing middle class in Asia's third-largest economy.
After leaving the EU in 2016, Britain has focused its trade policies on the Indo-Pacific region. India, once a British colony, is viewed as a favorable location given uncertainties over U.K.'s ties with China.
Investment from Indian companies already supports 95,000 jobs across the U.K., the statement said.
Britain is angling for a deal that slashes barriers to doing business and trading, including cutting tariffs on exports of British-made cars and Scotch whisky.
In an interview with the Financial Times newspaper on Thursday, Trevelyan said "everything is on the table to discuss,” including broadening visa access for Indian students and skilled workers. She said she would like for a deal to be clinched by early 2023.
According to India’s External Affairs Ministry, the two countries are focusing on five key areas, people-to-people contacts, trade, defense and security, climate action and health.
India and Britain have extensive links, with the former investing in 120 projects to become the second-largest source of foreign direct investments after the United States in 2019.
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