Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce & Industry. File.
| Photo Credit: Kamal Narang
Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal is scheduled to visit the U.K. on July 10-11 to take stock of the negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) to promote economic ties between the two countries, an official statement said on July 9.
The Minister’s visit will be focused on the ongoing FTA negotiations between India and the U.K. besides discussing progress on a trade pact with Ministers from the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member countries, the Commerce Ministry said.
The visit comes at a crucial juncture, as both India and the U.K. are committed to expanding their economic ties and exploring avenues for enhanced bilateral trade.
“With the FTA negotiations gaining momentum, the visit aims to further propel the discussions and pave the way for a comprehensive and mutually beneficial agreement that would drive economic growth and strengthen ties between the two nations,” it said.
During the visit, the Minister will engage in high-level meetings with his U.K. counterparts, including the Secretary of State for International Trade, as well as representatives from various sectors and industries.
“These meetings will provide an opportunity to discuss the key priorities and objectives of the FTA negotiations, with a focus on addressing trade barriers, promoting investments, and fostering greater cooperation in areas such as technology, innovation, and intellectual property rights,” it said.
He will also meet with Ministers and officials from the EFTA member countries, (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein), to assess the progress made in the ongoing negotiations of the Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA).
The TEPA aims to enhance trade and economic cooperation between India and the EFTA member countries, fostering an environment conducive to increased investments, reduced trade barriers, and greater market access.
Negotiations for a trade agreement between India and the U.K. were launched on January 13, 2021.
As many as ten rounds of talks have been completed till June this year and both sides are aiming to conclude the negotiations at the earliest.
The negotiations between the two countries for the agreement cover as many as 26 policy areas/chapters. Investment is being negotiated as a separate agreement (bilateral investment treaty) between India and the U.K. and it would be concluded simultaneously with the free trade agreement.
The bilateral trade between the countries has increased to $20.36 billion in 2022-23, as compared to $17.5 billion in 2021-22.
India’s main exports to the U.K. 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.
The main imports include precious and semi-precious stones, ores and metal scraps, engineering goods, professional instruments other than electronics, chemicals and machinery.
In the services sector, the U.K. is the largest market in Europe for Indian IT services.
In the field of investment, the U.K. is one of the top investors in India. In 2022-23, India received $1.74 billion in foreign direct investment from Britain as against $1 billion in 2021-22. During April 2000 and March 2023, the investments stood at $33.9 billion.
On April 26 here, India and EFTA discussed ways to resume negotiations for the agreement.
Under such pacts, two trading partners significantly reduce or eliminate customs duties on the maximum number of goods traded between them, besides easing norms to promote trade in services and investments.
EFTA countries are not part of the European Union (EU).
EFTA is an inter-governmental organisation for the promotion and intensification of free trade. It was founded as an alternative for states that did not wish to join the European Community.
India’s exports to EFTA countries during April-February 2022-23 stood at $1.67 billion as against $1.74 billion in 2021-22. Imports aggregated at $15 billion during the 11-month period as compared to $25.5 billion in 2021-22. The trade gap is in favour of the EFTA group.