Tariq Ahmad to discuss progress of FTA in India 

His visit to India comes as Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal leads a team from India to London to carry forward the fourteenth round of talks with UK officials this week…reports Asian Lite News

Minister for South Asia in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Lord Tariq Ahmad, arrived in India on Wednesday to participate in the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi and also discuss the progress made in the ongoing negotiations for an India-UK free trade agreement (FTA).

Ahmad, FCDO Minister of State for the Middle East, South Asia, UN and the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, leads the British delegation to the flagship foreign policy conference to reaffirm the UK’s commitment to upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

His visit to India comes as Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal leads a team from India to London to carry forward the fourteenth round of talks with UK officials this week.

“The UK and India continue to work towards an ambitious trade deal. While we do not comment on the details of live negotiations, we continue to actively engage with India and are clear that we will only sign a deal that is fair, balanced and ultimately in the best interests of the British people and the economy,” said a spokesperson for the UK’s Department for Business and Trade as an update on the negotiations.

According to official figures, the bilateral trade between India and the UK increased to $20.36 billion in 2022-23 from $17.5 billion in 2021-22. India and the UK launched the talks for an FTA in January 2022 and both sides are keen to clinch a deal before general elections scheduled in both countries this year.

There are 26 chapters in the agreement, which include goods, services, investments and intellectual property rights.

The Indian industry is demanding greater access for its skilled professionals from sectors like IT and healthcare in the UK market, besides market access for several goods at nil customs duty. On the other hand, the UK is seeking a significant cut in import duties on goods such as Scotch whisky, electric vehicles, lamb meat, chocolates and certain confectionary items.

Against a backdrop of rising conflict and instability, the UK’s commitment to a free and open’ Indo-Pacific is enduring. The UK-India relationship is at the heart of that commitment, which is not just about rhetoric or slogans; it is happening now and is set to improve lives across the UK and the region for years to come, said Lord Ahmad.

Following a plenary with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the FCDO said the minister will hold meetings with key counterparts from the government of India, including Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra and Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla to highlight the strong UK-India trade partnership and embrace new opportunities to collaborate, including on energy.

They will also discuss progress towards an ambitious trade deal, for which there is strong political will on both sides, the FCDO said.

Against a backdrop of an increasingly volatile world, the UK minister wants to highlight that the prosperity and security of the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific are inseparable. Strengthening the UK-India relationship is a key pillar of the UK’s long-term foreign policy, as part of its enduring engagement in the Indo-Pacific set out in the UK’s Integrated Review Refresh’, the FCDO pointed out.

While in India, Ahmad also marks the second anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which the FCDO said underlined the link between the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific through its impact on global energy and food costs.

On the margins of the Raisina Dialogue, the minister will discuss how to ease the desperate humanitarian situation in Gaza with key figures in the Middle East. This follows his travel to the region last week to push an immediate humanitarian pause in fighting.

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