UK bids for FTA with India by October

Detailed discussions between India and the UK on a bilateral free trade agreement could be successfully concluded in six months' time, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

boris speaking at conference in india

Prime Minister Boris Johnson India Tour - Day Two 22/04/2022. Delhi, India. Prime Minister Boris Johnson Gives a press conference with Prime Minister Modi. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

Speaking on Friday in Delhi alongside his counterpart Narendra Modi, Mr Johnson said: “As the next round of talks begin here next week, we are telling our negotiators, get it done by Diwali in (late) October.

"We appreciate the tariffs being dropped by India on certain goods and commodities and in return, we too are dropping some tariffs we levy. We also look forward to the close cooperation shared between the UK's NHS and India's health services."

For his part, Mr Modi agreed that a deal could be done by the end of the year. He said good progress had been made in the three rounds of trade talks that had already been held and that "we have decided to make all efforts to conclude the FTA by the end of this year”.

On arrival in India on Thursday, Mr Johnson had indicated that the UK was ready to simplify the immigration system for Indians wishing to work, study or settle in the UK - one of Mr Modi's major demands.

The two premiers were speaking after talks at Hyderabad House in Delhi. "While India is celebrating the 'Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav' (celebrations to mark the 75th year of Indian independence), the UK Prime Minister's visit is historic," Mr Modi said.

Aside from talks on an FTA, the two leaders stressed progress was being made on their mutual climate commitments made at last December's COP26 summit in Glasgow. The pair agreed to increase research into lowering the cost of 'green' hydrogen power - part of the UK's renewable energy plans.

"The UK and India are launching a virtual Hydrogen Science and Innovation hub to accelerate affordable green hydrogen, as well as new funding for the Green Grids Initiative announced at COP26, and collaboration on joint work on the electrification of public transport across India," said a government spokesman in London.

On security, there was agreement to boost co-operation in the Indo-Pacific region, including the Indian Ocean., to ensure the region remained "free and open".

"The UK will work with India to boost security in the Indo-Pacific, including new fighter jet technology, helicopters and collaboration in the undersea battlespace," Mr Johnson said.

"The UK's partnership with India is a beacon in stormy seas as the world faces growing threats from autocratic states which seek to undermine democracy, choke off fair trade and trample on sovereignty."

Mr Johnson said the UK would be creating an India-specific 'open general export licence' aimed at reducing both bureaucracy and delivery times for defence procurement from Britain. He added that the UK would support Indian efforts to construct its own fighter jets - an apparent bid to reduce the volume of weapons bought from Russia.

Lord Karan Bilimoria, president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), commented: "Working together on an ambitious UK-India free trade agreement that slashes tariffs, improves the ability to move talent across borders as well as data, will be the crucial foundation for a deal that delivers for businesses."
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