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)
A trade deal between Britain and India might not contain everything that the services sector wants, UK trade minister Kemi Badenoch said on Tuesday as a deadline to complete the deal approaches.
Before stepping down, former prime minister Boris Johnson set a target with Indian leader Narendra Modi to complete a free trade agreement (FTA) by Diwali on Oct 24.
“We want something comprehensive, but it has to be right for both countries,” Badenoch said at the Conservative Party’s annual conference.
“(The deadline) is not arbitrary … it was set quite a while ago. But doing a trade deal is not a simple and easy thing. So what we want to do is something that lifts both countries. It may not be everything that the services sector wants.”
Prime Minister Liz Truss has prioritised a trade deal with India as part of an Indo-Pacific tilt, and Britain has already announced post-Brexit agreements with Australia and New Zealand.
Johnson previously said a deal with India could double trade and investments between the countries by the end of the decade.
Badenoch was appointed trade secretary by Truss last month and acknowledged that she was still getting up to speed on trade issues but experts in her department had been working hard.
She said any deal that was agreed upon could also be expanded at a later date.
“Just because we have a free trade agreement, it doesn’t mean that we can’t do even more later. So that’s the message that I would send to the services sector,” she said.
“There’s a lot of good stuff that I think that we can get, but the focus has to be on a deal that is good for the UK and India, not any specific, particular sector alone.”
She also resisted calls for parliament to get more oversight of trade deals, saying that “the job of legislators is to look at legislation, not to negotiate trade deals”.