UK-India trade deal to skip ‘binding commitments on labour rights, climate standards’
British businesses feel such an agreement will undercut them
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 03: British Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade Kemi Badenoch speaks on day two of the annual Conservative Party conference on October 3, 2022 in Birmingham, England. This year the Conservative Party Conference will be looking at “Getting Britain Moving” with more jobs and higher salaries. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
BRITAIN’S proposed trade deal with India will not include legally enforceable commitments on labour rights or climate standards, a key omission which UK businesses feel will hurt them, a media report said.
The two countries are negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the discussions have entered the 13th round.
The talks got impetus following prime minister Rishi Sunak’s meeting with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi earlier this month.
Business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch last week said the UK and India were “very close” to achieving a mutually beneficial deal although aspects left to agree on were the toughest ones.
A Politico report citing sources said key enforceable dispute resolution powers which Britain set out to negotiate were missing from those chapters, meaning the two countries would not be able hold each other to their climate, environmental and workers’ rights commitments.
While a successful trade deal will provide better access to markets for the two countries, Britain’s businesses fear that a trade agreement without binding commitments on the two issues would adversely affect them as Indian firms operate with less stringent environmental and labour standards.
“Industry also wants binding commitments — partly for greater certainty, partly because businesses are made up of people who themselves want to be properly treated and to avoid climate catastrophe,” a senior British businessperson told Politico.
The government previously said it was committed to negotiating enforceable labour and environment chapters as it laid out its strategic approach in the beginning.
“We remain committed to upholding our high environmental, labour, food safety and animal welfare standards in our trade agreement with India,” the government said in January last year.
The Department for Business and Trade has now asserted it would only sign a deal that benefits Britain and its economy, but said it would not comment on live negotiations.