By: Pramod Thomas
BRITAIN is pursuing a “great” trade deal with India to cut tariffs and open up opportunities for the country’s services sector, UK trade and industry secretary Kemi Badenoch has said.
Highlighting her priorities since taking charge of the newly merged department for business and trade, Badenoch said her ministry is keen to make it easier for British businesses to access the fast-growing Indian economy with the new trade agreement.
She also pointed to the ongoing negotiations for the UK’s accession into the comprehensive and progressive trans-Pacific partnership (CPTPP) as reflective of a wider strategic shift towards the Indo-Pacific region.
“The CPTPP is not just about exporting goods or even services. The partnership is also about the geo-strategic shift to the Indo-Pacific as set out in the government’s integrated review and this really matters for our long-term security,” Badenoch said in an address to the Legatum Institute think tank in London.
“It also matters for our long-term growth – this is where the global middle class of the future will come from and we need to be a player. That’s also why we’re pursuing a great trade deal with India. A deal to cut tariffs and open opportunities for UK services, making it easier for British businesses to sell to an economy set to be the world’s third-largest by 2050.”
The minister dubbed trade deals like “motorways”, which are useful if there are vehicles to drive on them – with vehicles representing exports and investments.
“That’s what trade is really, and that’s my main focus. So, we are not just the department for getting deals, taking pictures, and signing bits of paper. And that will become even more key as I flesh out our role as the Department for Business and International Trade,” Badenoch added.
India and the UK have concluded seven rounds of negotiations towards a free trade agreement (FTA), with the eighth round scheduled in New Delhi later this month.
UK foreign secretary James Cleverly, who is in India this week for the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting, will also reaffirm the country’s commitment to conclude the FTA.
According to official UK government statistics, the bilateral trading relationship was worth £34 billion in 2022, growing by £10bn every year.
The confederation of British industry (CBI), the country’s leading industry body, estimates an India-UK FTA could boost trade with India by £28bn a year by 2035 and increase wages across the UK by £3bn.