As India and the UK are close to concluding negotiations for a proposed free trade agreement (FTA), chief negotiators of both countries will hold the 12th round of talks from August 7 here, an official said. Both sides are looking at concluding the talks before the end of the year.
The main issues which could come up for discussions in this round include investment treaty, reduction of duties on auto and whiskey and matters pertaining to services, the official said. The 11th round of talks was concluded last month. For that round, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal visited London and took stock of the negotiations.
Out of the total 26 chapters in the FTA, 19 have been closed. Investment is being negotiated as a separate agreement (bilateral investment treaty) between India and the UK and it would be concluded simultaneously with the free trade agreement.
In the rules of origin chapters, product-specific rules are being negotiated which include value-addition norms for each product category, change in chapter heading, and certification. The ’rules of origin’ provision prescribes minimal processing that should happen in an FTA country so that the final manufactured product may be called originating goods in that country.
Under this provision, a country that has inked an FTA with India cannot dump goods from some third country in the Indian market by just putting a label on it. It has to undertake a prescribed value addition in that product to export to India. Rules of origin norms help contain dumping of goods.
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 duties.
On the other hand, the UK is seeking a significant cut in import duties on goods such as scotch whiskey, automobiles, lamb meat, and certain confectionary items. Britain is also looking for more opportunities for UK services into Indian markets in segments such as telecommunications, legal and financial services like banking.
The bilateral trade between the countries increased to USD 20.36 billion in 2022-23 from USD 17.5 billion in 2021-22. India’s main exports to the UK are ready-made garments and textiles, gems and jewellery, engineering goods, petroleum and petrochemical products, transport equipment, spices, machinery and instruments, pharmaceuticals and marine products.
Main imports include precious and semi-precious stones, ores and metal scraps, engineering goods, professional instruments other than electronics, chemicals and machinery.