Trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan will look to deepen trade and economic ties with the notably trade-protectionist India during a visit this week.
A two-day trip to New Delhi on Wednesday will include bilateral talks with Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal on Thursday on green trade, the removal of market access barriers and other issues.
They are expected to formally launch talks on a UK-India free trade deal, Reuters reports.
“The UK and India are already close friends and trading partners – and building on that strong relationship is a priority for 2022,” said Trevelyan.
“I will be using my visit to drive forward an ambitious trade agenda which represents the UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt in action and shows how we are seizing global opportunities as an independent trading nation.”
Live Mint reports that Trevelyan will also meet several Indian cabinet ministers to discuss closer bilateral cooperation, including External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav.
Long road to a deal
The path to talks has not been smooth, with prime minister Boris Johnson cancelling two trips to India last year due to Covid fears.
India is expected to be the second fastest growing economy in the world this year according to UNCTAD.
Trade with the UK is worth £23bn, but the British government hopes to double that by 2030.
As previously covered in the IOE&IT’s Daily Update, India wants more access to UK visas for its workers in exchange for cutting tariffs on British goods such as Scotch whisky.
However this ambition is politically awkward for the UK government which has set much store in controlling immigration, with Boris Johnson ruling out being held to “ransom” over visas in the Commons last week.
City AM has also highlighted potential difficulties with concerns about Indian food standards slowing down negotiations in recent months.
Some commentators think India’s history of protectionism makes a comprehensive trade deal with the UK unlikely.
However, the two countries did sign an Enhanced Trade Partnership last year “as part of the development of a roadmap that would lead to a potential comprehensive FTA”.