PM cancels trip to India for second time due to rising Covid-19 cases in blow for trade deal hopes

Tue 20 Apr 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

uk-india

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has cancelled a planned visit to India due to rising Covid-19 cases in the country.

The visit would have been Johnson’s first major overseas trip since entering Downing Street at the end of 2019 and the government hoped talks with Indian leader Narendra Modi would help launch negotiations between the countries for a new trade deal.

India is currently reporting 200,000 infections a day and confirmed 1,620 deaths on Sunday, the BBC reports.

Second cancellation

This was the second time the Prime Minister has had to cancel plans to visit India, having cancelled a trip in January due to lockdown restrictions in the UK at the time.

It had been hoped that the trip would provide an opportunity to deepen trade ties and generate momentum behind trade deal talks. 

Johnson was reportedly going to push for a reduction in Indian tariffs on UK whiskies and cars.

Johnson will instead speak to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi online.

Indian prize

India has become one of the UK’s prime targets for its next major post-Brexit trade deal, particularly as hopes of a deal with the US have dimmed in recent months.

Mark Littlewood, the director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, wrote in the Times yesterday that an Indian trade agreement would be the “jewel in Boris Johnson’s crown”.

Johnson wants to double trade between the countries to £50 billion by 2030.

However, Littlewood points out that this would “require substantial compromises and reforms from both sides”.

Building on ETP

As reported in the IOE&IT Daily Update last week, the UK is targeting sectors such as technology and life sciences for deeper trade ties. Trade between the UK and India in these sectors currently provides half a million jobs.

The government hopes to build on the enhanced trade partnership (ETP) that International Trade Secretary Liz Truss concluded in February to rebuild the UK’s share of India’s imported goods and services, which have slipped in recent years from 6% and 11% in 2000 to 1.3% and 2.1% today.

Red list

With the India capital Delhi now in lockdown, health secretary Matt Hancock announced that India will join the UK’s travel ‘red list’ at 4am on Friday 23 April, the FT reports

British and Irish nationals travelling from India will have to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days following their arrival.

Travellers of other nationalities will not be permitted to enter the UK if they have been in India in the previous 10 days.