India-UK free trade deal unlikely by month's end
19 Oct 2023
India and the United Kingdom are unlikely to agree on the expected trade deal by the end of October. It was reported that negotiations are still ongoing, but the accurate timeline for the deal cannot be confirmed at this point. Officials from India are currently in London to broker the deal.
The initial deadline was decided to be the previous year’s Diwali, which was set by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson. There is a feeling that the window for a successful trade deal is closing as both nations will have their general elections in 2024. There has been a lack of progress in opening Indian markets for British firms, including law and accounting firms. This is said to be one of the main reasons for the delay.
The UK and India are continuing their collaborative efforts to pursue an ambitious trade agreement that serves the best interests of both nations. A spokesperson from the British High Commission emphasized their commitment to ensuring that any agreement they sign is characterized by fairness and balance and, above all, is in the best interests of the British people and their economy.
However, a report on Wednesday, 18 October, 2023, highlighted that certain service sectors have not achieved the anticipated outcomes in the negotiations, with representatives making it clear that they do not view this agreement as a transformative game-changer. The preliminary agreement does not appear to introduce groundbreaking provisions, particularly in areas such as legal services.
There has been a growing sense of expectation that a free-trade agreement would be signed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak by the end of October. British PM Rishi Sunak was also expected to attend the cricket World Cup match between India and England played on 29 October in Lucknow, but this has not been confirmed.
The negotiation between the two nations is said to be in its last lap, with both sides trying to agree on some differences. Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal stated last week that the negotiations are in the advanced stages.
The UK wants to expand its reach in telecommunications, legal, and financial services in the Indian markets as part of the deal. India, on the other hand, has been focusing on liberalizing migration policy for its skilled workers. Additional points of contention encompass the UK's requests for reduced tariffs on whiskey and automobiles, as well as sections addressing rules of origin and intellectual property rights (IPR).
Back in August, the UK Secretary of State for Business and Trade, Kemi Badenoch, affirmed her close collaboration with her counterpart, Piyush Goyal, with the aim of achieving a mutually advantageous outcome for both nations. She noted that, as is often the case in negotiations, the most challenging phase typically arises towards the conclusion. Badenoch indicated that numerous chapters had already been successfully addressed, simpler tasks had been completed, accommodations had been reached in various areas, and the negotiations had progressed to their final stages. While refraining from specifying a fixed deadline, she emphasized the unpredictable nature of negotiations as she made these remarks on the sidelines of the G20 Trade and Investment Ministerial in Jaipur.