British PM Theresa May heads to India with eye on trade

17 October 2016

British Prime Minister Theresa May is heading to India leading a delegation of small and medium-size businesses as part of efforts to bolster trade with countries outside the European Union as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.

May, on her first bilateral visit outside Europe, will arrive in India on 6 November on a three-day visit during which she will hold talks with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi and review all aspects of the India-UK strategic partnership, an announcement by the external affairs ministry said.

"This will be her first bilateral visit outside Europe. She will hold talks with Prime Minister Modi and review all aspects of India-UK Strategic Partnership. The Joint Economic and Trade Committee meeting will be held on the sidelines of the visit," the ministry said.

During the visit, Prime Minister May alongside Modi will inaugurate the India-UK Tech Summit in New Delhi jointly hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

"The Summit will be an opportunity for the two sides to strengthen business to business engagement in the areas of technology, entrepreneurship and innovation, design, IPRs and higher education," it said.

The India-UK strategic partnership originated during Prime Minister Modi's visit to the UK in November 2015 when he along with his British counterpart David Cameron agreed to hold bilateral economic dialogue annually.

With Britain voting to leave the European Union (EU) in a referendum in June and the subsequent resignation of the then Prime Minister David Cameron, the India-UK partnership has gained currency.

The  6-8 November trip, May's first bilateral visit to a country outside Europe since she took office in July, will be in pursuit of her ambition of forging a new global role for Britain after it leaves the European Union, May's Downing Street office said in a statement.

Since Britain is on the way out of the European Union, neither the European Commission nor any of the EU block countries will negotiate for or with that country until it has actually left the bloc.

"As we embark on the trade mission to India we will send the message that the UK will be the most passionate, most consistent, and most convincing advocate for free trade," May was quoted as saying.

May has often mentioned India among the priority countries for a free trade agreement to boost the UK's ties outside the EU post-Brexit.

"Countries including Canada, China, India, Mexico, Singapore and South Korea have already told us they would welcome talks on future free trade agreements. And we have already agreed to start scoping discussions on trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand," she had told the Conservative party conference earlier this month.

She will be accompanied by a business delegation that include representatives of Geolang, a cyber security company based in Cardiff in Wales, Torftech, a biomass energy company based in southeast England, and Telensa, a company focused on high-tech wireless street lighting systems, based in Cambridge.

May said unlike earlier trade missions that focused on big business, she wanted to adopt a new approach and would take small and medium companies from every region of the United Kingdom.

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