West Midlands mayor Andy Street (R) with British prime minister Boris Johnson (Photo by Jacob King – WPA Pool/Getty Images)
NEGOTIATIONS between India and the UK to strike a free-trade agreement (FTA), which were launched last week, will conclude quickly due to an “absolute agreement” at the senior political level, Andy Street, mayor for the West Midlands region of England, has said.
Street, who is in charge of the West Midlands Combined Authority that covers some of England’s major industrial hubs of Birmingham and Coventry, expects that his region will immensely benefit from such an FTA with India.
Last week, UK international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan met Indian commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal in New Delhi to formally begin the negotiations.
While their joint statement sets an end of the year timeline for conclusion of the negotiations, there is much speculation that such talks are likely to continue for a longer period of time.
“These things tend to be rather longer than one would wish,” Street told the Press Trust of India.
“But I think there’s a critical ingredient here: there seems to me to be absolute agreement at the senior political level that this has got to happen as quickly as possible. It is surprising how that can unlock these deals more quickly than otherwise. So, I think this will go very, very quickly,” he said.
Street, who is mayor for the region that is dubbed the automotive capital of the UK, being home to the country’s largest car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), believes the trade talks with India hold out great tariff-free promise for the West Midlands.
He said, “The big picture is that within the overall UK-India relationship there’s a real opportunity for the West Midlands to build a strong trading relationship. We’ve already got a very good relationship because our single biggest company, Jaguar Land Rover, is owned by Tata.
“So, there’s an incredible Indian investment here and what we believe is that there’ll be many, many more opportunities particularly in sectors where we are very strong – automotive, net zero – overlap perfectly with the Indian economy.”
With its automotive cluster, 50 per cent of the research and development (R&D) for the sector is done in and around Birmingham.
“This is the region that will gain most. We’ve seen JLR turning to electric and also electric taxis being built, there’s electric motorcycles. So, this sector is becoming really, really strong here. Of course, the absence of tariffs with India will enable us to really work with the innovators,” the mayor said.
According to official statistics, the West Midlands is second after London and the south east of England in terms of inward investments from India.
Besides JLR, some of the other Indian companies located in the region include software services major Infosys and TVS Motors, which recently acquired Birmingham-based Norton Motorcycles.