THERE is a “huge” progress in the talks between India and the UK on the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) , a top official said in New Delhi.
Commerce secretary Sunil Barthwal said the 11th round of talks in London was “very intense” and many issues were closed.
Out of the total 26 chapters in the proposed FTA, 19 have been closed. Investment is being negotiated as a separate agreement – bilateral investment treaty – between India and the UK.
“Now, there are only few issues left. The UK team is coming to India during the Trade and Investment Working Group (TIWG) meeting (in Jaipur) and we are hoping that we would be closing those remaining issues.
“So, our target is that we close the issues … when the UK team visit us in India and we are very hopeful that the issues will be sorted out,” Barthwal told reporters.
“I think there is a good possibility of the UK FTA moving forward… There are a lot of steps before FTA is signed,” he said, adding “there is a huge progress on the FTA”.
A section of the UK team is already in New Delhi and the remaining officials are coming from Wednesday (16).
A minister-level meeting is expected on August 21.
“Lot of visits are happening that is why we are saying that we are very keen to close the remaining chapters during this visit,” Barthwal said.
The main issues which could come up for discussions in this round include investment treaty, reduction of duties on auto and whiskey, rules of origin, intellectual property rights and matters pertaining to services.
The Indian industry is demanding greater access for its skilled professionals in sectors like IT, and healthcare in the UK market, besides market access for several goods at nil customs duties.
On the other hand, the UK is seeking a significant cut in import duties on goods such as scotch whiskey, automobiles, lamb meat, and certain confectionary items.
Britain is also looking for more opportunities for UK services in Indian markets in areas like telecommunications and legal and financial services.
The bilateral trade between the countries increased to $20.36 billion in 2022-23 from $17.5 bn in 2021-22.