NEW DELHI-  Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and his UK counterpart Kemi Badenoch on Tuesday reviewed the progress of talks for the proposed free trade agreement between the nations, an official said.

The UK Trade Secretary is here to kickstart the sixth round of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations and hold bilateral talks with Goyal.

The negotiations are happening after a brief gap due to recent political developments in the UK. The last round of talks was held on July 29. Negotiations for the FTA started on January 13 this year.

“Both the ministers held bilateral talks and also met industry representatives of both sides. The Indian side has stated that they are committed to making the FTA happen in the spirit of accommodation of each other’s sensitivities,” the official said.

The meeting of the ministers assumes significance as it was the first major deliberation on the proposed pact between the countries after the Rishi Sunak government took office in the UK in October.

In a free trade agreement, two countries either significantly reduce or eliminate customs duties on the maximum number of goods traded between them.

The UK side is demanding a cut in import duty for different sectors including automobile and Scotch whisky, besides easing of Indian intellectual property regime.

India and Britain launched negotiations with the aim to conclude talks by Diwali (October 24), but the deadline was missed due to political developments in the UK.

There are 26 chapters in the agreement, which include goods, services, investments and intellectual property rights.

Reduction or elimination of customs duty under the pact would help Indian labour-intensive sectors like textiles, leather, gems and jewellery to boost exports in the UK market.

The bilateral trade between the two countries increased to USD 17.5 billion in 2021-22 compared to USD 13.2 billion in 2020-21.

India’s exports stood at USD 10.5 billion in 2021-22, while imports were USD 7 billion.

India’s main exports to the UK include ready-made garments and textiles, gems and jewellery, engineering goods, petroleum and petrochemical products, transport equipment and parts, spices, metal products, machinery and instruments, pharma and marine items.

Major imports include precious and semi-precious stones, ores and metal scraps, engineering goods, professional instruments, non-ferrous metals, chemicals and machinery.

The UK is also a key investor in India. New Delhi attracted foreign direct investment of USD 1.64 billion in 2021-22. The figure was about USD 32 billion between April 2000 and March 2022.

In the services sector, the UK is one of the largest markets in Europe for Indian IT services. (PTI)


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