Post-Brexit trade with India to focus on 5 sectors



Information and communications technology (ICT) and services are among five sectors identified as key areas for closer cooperation in trade arrangements after the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union is completed on December 31.

The Boris Johnson government has been keen on a free trade agreement with India. Formal talks on such a pact can only begin after December 31, but some talks on exploring ‘building blocks’ have begun. Other sectors identified are food and drink, life sciences and chemicals to address non-tariff barriers to trade.

Official sources here said the 14th Joint Economic and Trade Committee (Jetco) – the annual mechanism for government-to-government negotiations – is scheduled for July 24 between Commerce minister Piyush Goyal and International trade secretary Elizabeth Truss virtually.

Minister of state for Commerce Hardeep Singh Puri on Wednesday held a virtual bilateral meeting with Ranil Jayawardena, the UK’s minister for International Trade, to discuss market access and other bilateral trade issues as a prelude to the Jetco meeting.

British ministers have emphasised to Indian interlocutors that the country would not become protectionist, but more open after leaving the EU. The Brexit process is currently in the one-year transition phase that ends on December 31, when the UK’s exit will be complete.

The UK’s eagerness for an FTA with India has been met with a wait-and-watch approach in New Delhi, where a review of FTAs with various countries is envisaged by Goyal to protect the interests of Indian industry and traders.

In the long-stalled EU-India free trade talks, easier mobility of Indian professionals (the so-called Mode 4) is one of the key areas New Delhi has been insisting on. Brussels believes that there will be better chances of reaching the agreement with India after Britain leaves the EU.

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