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Boris Johnson's India Visit: What The UK Will Be Looking For In FTA Negotiations

When Boris Johnson lands in India marking his maiden visit as British Prime Minister, there will be more at stake, especially for the United Kingdom’s, beyond the vanilla 'deepening of the bilateral long-term partnership in the face of global economic challenges'.

Of course PM Johnson will visit Gujarat to meet with leading businesses as well as meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on 22 April to hold in-depth talks on strategic defence, diplomatic and economic partnership aimed at stepping up security co-operation in the Indo-Pacific. Importantly there will be focus on securing major new investment deals, supporting UK businesses, boosting jobs and growth at home as well as new collaboration on cutting-edge science, health and technology.

“India as a major economic power and the world’s largest democracy is a highly valued strategic partner for the UK in these uncertain times. My visit to India will deliver on the things that really matter to the people of both our nations – from job creation and economic growth, to energy security and defence,” Johnson said ahead of the visit.

India will host the third round of discussions on the FTA with the UK in a hybrid mode from 25 April.

At the second round of talks in March, the two sides shared the draft treaty text covering 26 chapters or policy areas. The two sides have completed discussions on four chapters and reportedly made significant progress in the remaining 22 chapters.

Total two-way trade is currently around $50 billion, including $35 billion of services and $15 billion of goods.

All this is significant in the larger context of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India as, the UK, according to the British High Commission spokesperson, is leveraging post-Brexit trade opportunities with India’s growing economy to drive down prices in key commodities for consumers, open opportunities for UK businesses in areas like green tech and services and create high-wage, high-skill jobs.

“Prime Minister Johnson will use the visit to drive progress in the Free Trade Agreement negotiations launched earlier this year. A deal with India is predicted to boost our total trade by up to £28 billion annually by 2035 and increase wages across the UK by up to £3 billion,” the spokesperson said.

The emphasis of the Johnson visit on trade and investment underlined by the visit to Gujarat is seen as significant in the run up to the FTA, Ambassador Anil Wadhwa, former Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affair East, told Swarajya. “The visit is important on aspects separate from the FTA like a push on Defence manufacturing. Defence investment could be a major thing on the agenda especially from the perspective of focus on manufacturing in India rather than importing. From India’s perspective, investments in Defence is most important. We could be looking at some understanding on some kind of technology transfer,” said Wadhwa.


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