Sir Tariq Ahmad, Minister for South Asia at the UK Foreign Office, said the UK-India relationship is an important partnership as India is one of the world’s largest economies.
Ahmad was speaking at a debate in the Senate on Thursday titled ‘The Importance of British-Indian Relations’.
He confirmed that negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) are “well advanced” and the next round of negotiations is expected to begin soon.
“It is true that the UK-India relationship has become central to UK foreign policy as we build and strengthen this relationship,” Ahmad said.
“As one of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies, India is an important partner for the UK…also lowering non-tariff barriers on medical devices to benefit UK exporters. It is an ambitious and balanced free trade deal that we are considering.”
A strong trade deal with India could boost the UK economy by billions of pounds in the long term and could help families across the country, he said. It will make it easier and cheaper for businesses to sell in India, boosting growth and boosting employment,” he added.
As part of a review of progress across all areas of bilateral cooperation, including defense, health and climate action, Ministers also addressed timeline issues related to the UK-India FTA.
“As an update, we have now completed six rounds of negotiations for a trade agreement and will soon begin the next round…Several noble lords have spoken about timelines. .
“We assure them that we are dealing with them specifically, but that the signed trade agreements are properly considered, not hastily, and that all chapters are thoroughly discussed. It was a mutual agreement, a deal of mutual benefit to both countries and their peoples,” the minister said.
According to official UK government data, bilateral trade between India and the UK now amounts to around £29.6 billion annually. The two sides officially launched FTA negotiations last January, with former Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing a deadline for signing the Diwali Agreement.
But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowed to work “at pace” towards an FTA that would not “sacrifice quality for speed” after the October deadline passed amid political turmoil in the UK. promised.
The sixth round of negotiations to finalize the agreement concluded last month, with 28 separate sessions discussing detailed draft treaties across 11 policy areas.
The UK government has said the goal of the FTA is to reduce tariffs, open up opportunities for UK services such as finance and law, and achieve deals to make it easier for UK companies to sell to the Indian economy.
Verma opened the debate by highlighting the recent establishment of the India (Trade and Investment) All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG). APPG supports the 1928 Institute, a British Indian think tank, as its secretariat. She revealed that the bipartisan group plans to bring its first delegation to India in April.
“This group will not only enhance political engagement and understanding, but will continue this century with strong foundations, strong collaborations and new partnerships,” she said.
Sir Karan Vilimoria spoke of the need for a large Prime Minister’s delegation to India and asked Prime Minister Sunak to lead the delegation “as soon as possible”.
“Today, India is chairing the G20. Today, India has a vision of becoming the second largest economy in the world with a GDP of US$32 billion in the next 25 years,” he said. I was.
“An Indian express train has left the station, which is now the fastest train in the world and the fastest growing major economy in the world. Yes, we have to be partners,” he added.
(with input from PTI)