The confirmation of a potential free trade agreement, aimed to be signed by the end of the year, follows a day of talks in New Delhi. A deal with India is one of the UK’s post-Brexit priorities as it looks to tighten its relations with fast-growing economies. Mr Johnson called it a “historic partnership”.
The Prime Minister said: “Today we launch negotiations on an ambitious free trade deal with India – one of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies.
“As we take our historic partnership to the next level we will create jobs, increase wages and drive innovation across the United Kingdom.”
The agreement could increase trade by billions of pounds by almost doubling British exports to India.
Total trade in 2019 was worth £23bn. By 2035, this figure could get a boost of £28bn per year.
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International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who described the prospect the deal as “a golden opportunity”, said: “This is an opportunity that we must seize to steer our partnership along the track of mutual prosperity for the decades to come.”
India is on course to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2050.
So, the Government’s work on a trade agreement with the nation of 1.38 billion is not only set to be its biggest negotiation of 2022 but one very much welcome by Brexiteers who look at the EU’s failure to strike something similar after trying for years with India. A year since the UK left the bloc, the news is expected to be celebrated as a Brexit success.
While New Delhi wants more opportunities for Indians to live and work in Britain, No 10 wants British companies to be able to sell more products such as Scotch whisky to India.
Ministers also want India to buy more UK green technology and British services.
Less restricting rules and lower fees for Indian students and professionals going to the UK might be looked at, too.
Indian trade minister Piyush Goyal said: “Nothing is necessarily a deal-breaker in this agreement.
“And I will not think there is any way for anybody to worry about issues which are sensitive to any country, because both sides have agreed that sensitive issues are not our priority.”
Ahead of Thursday’s talks, Mr Johnson said: “A trade deal with India’s booming economy offers huge benefits for British businesses, workers and consumers.
“The UK has world-class businesses and expertise we can rightly be proud of, from Scotch whisky distillers to financial services and cutting-edge renewable technology.
“We are seizing the opportunities offered in growing economies of the Indo-Pacific to cement our place on the global stage and deliver jobs and growth at home.”
Ms Trevelyan added: “We want to unlock this huge new market for our great British producers and manufacturers across numerous industries from food and drink to services and automotive.
“As an independent, deal-making nation the UK is broadening our economic horizons and forging stronger partnerships with the fastest-growing economies of the world.
“India marks the start of our ambitious 5-star year of UK trade and will show how the deals we negotiate will boost the economies across all nations and help level up all regions of the UK.”
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