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Majority of outstanding issues in India-UK FTA moving towards resolution

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NEW DELHI : Majority of outstanding issues pertaining to the negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement between India and United Kingdom (UK) are “moving towards resolution” and the two sides are still in talks to iron out a couple of key priority issues to seal the deal to ensure a balanced outcome, the Commerce Ministry said recently.

“Both sides are actively engaged in talks, and both sides want a fair, equitable deal. Negotiators are still negotiating. We are waiting for talks to conclude,” Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal said.

The ministry further said that chapter-wise textual negotiations are nearly closed and schedule on goods and services are at an advanced stage of talks.

India and the UK have been going the extra mile to close negotiations over the proposed bilateral FTA. A British delegation met commerce ministry officials in New Delhi from March 5-7 to accelerate talks.

Negotiations between the two nations began on January 2022 with an initial deadline of Diwali 2022. There are 26 chapters in the agreement, which include goods, services, investments, and intellectual property rights. So far, 14 rounds of talks have been conducted between the two sides.

On March 12, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and UK counterpart Rishi Sunak reaffirmed their commitment to work towards an “early conclusion of a mutually beneficial FTA.”

 Sources said that due to differences over matters related to market access, New Delhi and UK may not be able to seal the trade deal before Lok Sabha elections in India, dates for which is scheduled to be announced on March 16.

One of the sticking points between the two sides continues to be London’s reluctance over New Delhi’s stand that British automakers have to step up the utilisation of local components in their vehicles to 45 percent to avail of concessions in India.

The government has been weighing Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQ) to meet the UK’s demand for a lower import levy on electric vehicles from Britain as part of the trade deal. The call for a similar cut on British whiskey too awaits a resolution.

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