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India-UK FTA: Centre asks London to seal deal before poll announcement

The Centre has told the UK government that the window to finalise the much-awaited India-UK FTA deal will close once the dates of the Lok Sabha elections are announced and the model code of conduct comes into effect. India has told its UK counterparts that if the negotiations fail at this stage, then it will have to wait till the new government takes charge, sources told Hindu Businessline.

A delegation from the UK, headed by Douglas McNeill, the chief economic advisor to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, is currently in Delhi to discuss the details.

McNeill has met top officials at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Economic Affairs Secretary Ajay Seth and Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal to discuss matters related to the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) and an investment treaty.

The trade deal between India and the UK was initiated more than two years ago on January 13, 2022. Despite engaging in 14 rounds of negotiations, both parties have struggled to find common ground on certain contentious matters.

The FTA comprises 26 chapters encompassing goods, services, investments and intellectual property rights. At present, India is trying to seek a resolution on London’s plan to roll out a carbon border tax on its imported goods from 2027 and include the social security agreement.

Most of the work in all the 26 chapters of the proposed India-UK FTA is done, with about 21 almost closed, but there are small niggling issues, involving one or two articles, that are left in some, the source said.

Some of the points of disagreement involve the UK’s request for reduced tariffs on whiskey and automobiles, including electric vehicles. Additionally, the UK is striving to explore further prospects in telecommunications, legal, and financial services within the Indian markets.

Negotiations are now expected to carry on virtually in February, till the start of the model code of conduct.

Indian industry is expecting that the FTA will result in increased opportunities for skilled professionals, especially in sectors like information technology and healthcare, to enter the UK market. On the other hand, the UK industry is eager for more efficient business operations and lower import tariffs on products like automobiles, liquor, and confectionery, among other items. Business Today

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