India, UK both committed for FTA: Commere Minister Goyal

India, UK both committed for FTA: Commere Minister Goyal

New Delhi: Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Wednesday said both India and the UK are committed to the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

He said that the initial comments made by the new UK government are “very” encouraging. “The Labour Party is deeply committed as is the Modi government (for the FTA),” he told reporters here.

The India-UK talks for the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) began in January 2022. The 14th round of talks stalled as the two nations stepped into their general election cycles.

In an FTA, two or more trading partners either significantly reduce or eliminate customs duties on the maximum number of goods traded between them. Besides, they also ease norms to promote and facilitate trade in services and investments.

There are pending issues in both the goods and services sectors.

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 whiskey, electric vehicles, lamb meat, chocolates and certain confectionary items.

Britain is also looking for more opportunities for UK services in Indian markets in segments like telecommunications, legal and financial services (banking and insurance).

The two countries are also negotiating a bilateral investment treaty (BIT).

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

The bilateral trade between India and the UK increased to $21.34 billion in 2023-24 from 20.36 billion in 2022-23. The Labour Party’s election manifesto for the recent polls also committed to clinching the deal.

Meanwhile, the Commerce and Indusrty Minister said a Group of Ministers (GoM) will take a decision on lifting the ban on certain varieties of non-basmati rice after considering demand-supply and price situation. The GoM always take a balanced decision, he added.

The Centre has banned exports of non-basmati white rice since July 20, 2023, to boost domestic supply.

When asked if the government is considering the removal of ban on rice exports, he said: “These decisions are taken by a Group of Ministers. We meet periodically, assess the production of agri produce, the consumption patterns, price in the retail and wholesale market, and we take a balanced decision”.

According to the agriculture ministry’s estimates, India’s rice production is estimated at 136.7 million tonnes in 2023-24 compared to 135.75 million tonnes in the preceding year.

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