Britain and India began hammering out a post-Brexit trade deal on Thursday, with London seeking a cut in tariffs on Scotch whisky and greater access to the Asian giant’s services and tech sectors.
New Delhi, which is notoriously reticent about lowering trade barriers and was dubbed the “tariff king” by former US president Donald Trump, wants in return to make it easier and cheaper for Indians to obtain British visas.
A joint statement after Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and British Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan formally launched the talks in Delhi reiterated a target of doubling bilateral trade volumes by 2030.
“Both sides have agreed that we will focus initially on areas which are of mutual benefit and where there is less disagreement, and for which we have set a very aggressive timeline of next few months,” Mr Goyal told reporters.
Delighted to launch the India-UK Free Trade Agreement talks with Secretary of State for International Trade @AnnieTrev.
Have set aggressive timelines for a mutually beneficial deal that expands trade, opens new avenues of growth & creates employment.
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) January 13, 2022
“We feel confident that there is so much complementarity between the two economies that we should easily be able to come up with a very substantive agreement in the initial phase… I think we are committed to concluding this negotiation in about a year’s time,” he said.
“The UK has world-class businesses and expertise we can rightly be proud of, from Scotch whisky distillers to financial services and cutting-edge renewable technology,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.
“We are seizing the opportunities offered in growing economies of the Indo-Pacific to cement our place on the global stage and deliver jobs and growth at home,” he said.
Britain has struck trade deals with Japan, New Zealand and Australia as it attempts to compensate for falling trade volumes with the European Union since it left the bloc in January 2020.
The total volume of trade at stake in a deal between Britain and India is small fry, however, equivalent to about three percent of London’s total volume of commerce with the EU, Bloomberg News reported.
New Delhi’s push to ease the granting of UK visas for Indian nationals may also fall foul with Brexit supporters who were keen to cut immigration.
Conservative lawmaker Edward Leigh told parliament last week that “working-class voters who voted Brexit did not vote to replace immigration from Europe with more immigration from the rest of the world”.