India, UK unveil 10-year road map to elevate bilateral trade partnership

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his UK counterpart Boris Johnson during the virtual summit on Tuesday. Photo: PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson on Tuesday unveiled an ambitious 10-year road map to elevate the India-UK bilateral relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership, paving the way for a stronger engagement in areas such as trade and economy, defence and security, and health.

Hours before the virtual summit, the UK prime minister announced a new India-UK trade investment worth £1 billion, including an investment of £240 million by Serum Institute of India for its vaccine business in Britain.

“The package contains over £533 million of new Indian investment into the UK, which is expected to create more than 6,000 jobs in vital and growing sectors such as health and technology. £200m of these deals will support low carbon growth,” the UK Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

Later, during the summit meeting, India and the UK inked nine pacts, including the launch of an enhanced trade partnership (ETP), which would include negotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) and an interim trade agreement for delivering early gains. Both nations will work towards a road map for concluding pre-FTA discussions by year-end.

“By the middle of next year, both sides have agreed on an interim trade deal and to continue negotiations for an FTA,” Sandeep Chakravorty, joint secretary at the ministry of external affairs, told reporters.

“Confirm our intent to finalise the pre-negotiation scoping phase for a comprehensive free trade agreement by the end of 2021. This will resolve market access issues, boost exports and strengthen our trade partnership across a comprehensive range of areas. Both sides will undertake respective scoping, consultations and domestic processes, with consideration of the opportunity arising from an interim agreement, to achieve the early gains of the ETP,” the MEA said.

Both countries set an ambitious target of more than doubling the bilateral trade by 2030. As the UK tries to build a post-Brexit trade relationship with the world, India till date is the largest market the UK has committed to negotiate a trade deal with.

“Our countries are already close partners and friends, and today’s announcement of a 10-year roadmap working towards an FTA will take the bilateral relationship to the next level. In the immediate term, the focus will rightly be on removing market access barriers.

Businesses in both countries are enthused by the opportunities to enter and expand across the UK-India economic corridor and the ETP, leading to an FTA, will make that more appealing and easier than ever,” UK India Business Council Group Chair Richard Heald said.

India, UK unveil 10-year road map to elevate bilateral trade partnership

In a first, a migration and mobility partnership pact was also signed to facilitate legal movement of students and professionals and also enhance cooperation between India and the UK in combating illegal migration. Under the MoU, the UK agreed to create a new scheme on youth mobility that would enable up to 3,000 young Indian professionals to avail of employment in the UK for two years, without being subject to labour market tests. Chakravorty said that currently the UK has such an arrangement with limited countries such as Canada, Australia, Japan, and South Korea.

The two leaders also discussed the Covid19 situation and ongoing cooperation in the fight against the pandemic, including the successful partnership on vaccines. Modi thanked Johnson for the prompt medical assistance provided by the UK in the wake of the severe second wave of Covid in India. Last week the UK sent £6 million worth of medical supplies to help India.

Johnson also informed Modi that Serum Institute of India (SII) is investing in the UK and will be manufacturing vaccines in the country.

The leaders also discussed the extradition of economic offenders such as Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi. As Modi sought early extradition of economic offenders, Johnson assured support. Both sides agreed to enhance cooperation on new and emerging technologies, including Digital and ICT products, and work on supply chain resilience.

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