UK envoys are due in New Delhi this week as the two countries seek to bring almost two years of trade negotiations to a conclusion, people familiar with the matter said.
(Bloomberg) — UK envoys are due in New Delhi this week as the two countries seek to bring almost two years of trade negotiations to a conclusion, people familiar with the matter said.
A team of 30 UK officials including Director General for trade negotiations Amanda Brooks will head to the Indian capital to thrash out remaining issues as part of their 13th round of talks, officials from the UK and India said, requesting anonymity because a deal isn’t yet sealed.
At stake is a commercial agreement between two of the world’s largest economies that would represent a landmark for both. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak would be able to hold the deal up as a benefit of Brexit, and for India, it would be a boost for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he gears up for an election next year.
Earlier in the year, the two nations softened positions on most of their points of contention. Indian officials said that they had agreed to slash tariffs on British cars and scotch whisky, with Britain prepared to relax some visa rules for Indian professionals.
Sunak and Modi must now make a political call on pending issues, one person said.
With almost all outstanding sensitive issues resolved, Modi was due Monday to meet his own team to take a call on concluding a deal, the person said. The Indian premier will decide the position on a handful of critical issues for the South Asian nation, they said without providing further details.
The window of opportunity for finalizing the trade deal — India’s biggest and most ambitious to date — is small given next year’s national polls.
Two UK officials said significant progress has been made, with the majority of chapters closed, but that some issues are still being resolved. Sunak is regularly taking stock of progress, and he’s preparing to visit India to announce the deal before the end of the year, one of them said.
An India trade ministry spokesperson did not respond to an email outside business hours. The UK Department for Business and Trade said in a statement that it wouldn’t comment on the details of live negotiations, but added that the government continues to “actively engage” with India.
“We will only sign a deal that is fair, balanced and ultimately in the best interests of the British people and the economy,” the department said.
Modi and Sunak are pushing to double bilateral trade by 2030 through a pact that slashes tariffs and increases market access. The deal would bolster India’s ambition to become a manufacturing powerhouse while helping the UK to highlight the benefits of Brexit.
It is also expected to act as a springboard for India to clinch similar deals with other developed nations including the European Union.
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