‘Negotiations Abhi Baki Hai Mere Dost’: Outgoing British High Commissioner On India-UK FTA – News18

Curated By: Rohit
Last Updated: March 25, 2024, 14:03 IST
New Delhi, India
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chats with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak following his arrival at the venue for G20 Summit, Bharat Mandapam in September. (Image: Reuters file)
The outgoing British High Commissioner has expressed hope over the early conclusion of the free trade agreement (FTA) between India and the United Kingdom but quipped that “negotiations abhi baki hai mere dost.” Ambassador Alex Ellis, who is set to depart India after three years, in a wide-ranging interview with The Indian Express, said leaders of both countries made it clear that they want an FTA.
“Yes, we’re most definitely closer. Both Prime Ministers made it clear that they want a FTA. And they spoke only last week to reaffirm that desire for it. It’s not a straightforward negotiation because you have two similarly sized economies, but very differently shaped. The Indian economy is much more agriculture-based, obviously much poorer in terms of GDP per capita,” he answered when asked if the two nations were anywhere closer to reaching a trade deal.
“The UK economy is much more integrated in its manufacturing and its goods, with the rest of Europe because of the legacy of being a member of the European Union. People on both sides want to have real new market access. The UK-India trade has doubled since 2020. So actually, it’s grown a lot, but we can see economic advantage in having a trade deal,” he said. When asked about FTA’s conclusion in the wake of talks on crucial issues of mobility and visa, Ellis said, “Aasaan nahi hai, negotiations abhi baki hai, mere dost.”
The India-UK FTA negotiations, which opened in January 2022, began with the aim of securing an “ambitious” outcome for bilateral trade. The 14th round of the FTA negotiations was concluded earlier this month with formal negotiations being put on hold as India heads into election campaign mode. This pause was attributed to the enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) for the general elections currently underway in India. Several reports said negotiations are anticipated to recommence in June.
In a March 12 phone call, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and British counterpart Rishi Sunak reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the bilateral Comprehensive Strategic partnership. They had expressed satisfaction with the progress made under the Roadmap 2030 in diverse areas including trade, investment, defence and security. They also assessed positively the progress made towards the early conclusion of a mutually beneficial FTA. Earlier, Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, in an interview, said that long-term benefits for the economy were the key to such FTA negotiations and that India was seeking a “balanced, fair and equitable” deal.


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