The matter came up during the discussions held between commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal and his British counterpart Secretary of State, Elizabeth Truss on FTA and other trade matters on Monday.
“India & UK are strengthening trade ties by moving towards an early harvest deal, followed by a comprehensive FTA,” Goyal said in a tweet after the meeting.
India’s exports to the UK in FY21 were $8.15 billion and imports were $4.95 billion.
In a separate statement, the UK government said the two ministers agreed on the steps to get ready to launch negotiations ‘later this year’, including a series of trade working groups from September to help both sides ‘better understand each other’s position on potential chapter areas in any trade deal including tariffs, standards, IP and data regulation’ and deliver results for businesses including those in digital and data, tech and food and drink.
The two sides had decided earlier this year to launch an Enhanced Trade Partnership to develop a roadmap that would lead to a potential comprehensive FTA, including considerations on an interim pact on a preferential basis.
As per the statement, the Interim Agreement will involve early concessions on certain key high-priority products and services with respect to tariffs or market access and allow both the countries to harvest early gains in some select commodities and services.
“The proposed FTA between will unlock extra ordinary business opportunities and generate jobs,” the ministry said.
Goyal said that India is committed to the early conclusion of an ambitious, comprehensive and mutually beneficial India UK FTA with an early harvest agreement within an expedited timeframe.
“The minister said that there is keenness to have an early conclusion of negotiations for quick and early economic benefits to businesses on both sides,” the ministry said quoting Goyal, adding that
substantial work has already been done and extensive stakeholder consultations have been held involving industry, business associations, export promotion councils, regulatory bodies and ministries, among others.
Bilateral working groups for different tracks were formed to understand ambitions, interests and sensitivities of each other to facilitate accelerated progress during negotiations and their meetings are likely to be completed this month.
Both sides will begin their Joint Scoping discussions, beginning October 1 onward to finalise the terms of reference to launch the negotiations in November.
Emphasising the need to balance commitments and concessions in goods and services, Goyal said that certain services of mutual interest may be included in the Interim Agreement through request offer approach wherein we may include priority sectors which are immediately deliverable and Mutual Recognition Agreements in selective services like nursing and architecture could also be explored to recognize one another’s conformity assessments.