Several barriers ahead for India-UK trade deal by Diwali

According to UKIBC Executive Chair, there are a number of non-tariff barriers that both countries need to address in order to have a comprehensive trade deal, a report by Gyanendra Kumar Keshri

A number of non-tariff barriers, like rules related to investor protection, intellectual property rights, and harmonisation of governance and standards, are among the key sticky points in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that India and the United Kingdom target to sign by Diwali this year.

“The UK businesses, as well as the Indian businesses, want the equal focus to be given to non-tariff barriers, particularly the technical barriers to trade and investment,” Richard Heald, Executive Chair, UK India Business Council (UKIBC), told ANI in an interview.

He said there are a number of non-tariff barriers that both countries need to address in order to have a comprehensive trade deal. “It’s not only about tariff barriers but also non-tariff barriers,” he said.

He said the non-tariff barriers that the two countries need to address include the issues around rules of origin, harmonisation of governance and standards, confirmation of rules around intellectual property rights, and investor protection.

Heald, who served as chief executive officer of UKIBC from 2010 to 2020, said addressing the non-tariff barriers would “give the free trade agreement absolute credibility as far as the businesses are concerned, both in the UK and India.”

India and the UK announced their intention to have a comprehensive free trade agreement during a virtual summit held in May 2021 between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson. Formal negotiations on the proposed FTA between the two countries started early this year.

The third round of talk was held on May 6 in a hybrid mode with some of the teams meeting in New Delhi and the majority joining virtually.

During the third round of negotiations, “draft treaty text was advanced across the majority of chapters. Technical experts from both sides came together for discussions in 60 separate sessions covering 23 policy areas,” as per a joint statement released after the meeting.

India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal visited London in the last week of May to take the negotiations forward. After the meetings with UK negotiators, Goyal had expressed hope that the FTA would be signed by Diwali.

The fourth round of negotiations is due to be hosted by the UK this month.

During a summit meeting held in April 2022, prime ministers of India and the United Kingdom set the timeline of Diwali 2022 (October 24) for formalisation of the FTA.

On the expectation of meeting the Diwali deadline, Heald said the leadership of the two countries has shown a strong political will to meet the deadline.

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