Student visa is not on agenda for Free Trade Agreement talks between India and UK, says UK Trade Secretary in India – UKMALAYALEE

Student visa is not on agenda for Free Trade Agreement talks between India and UK, says UK Trade Secretary in India

Thursday 15 December 2022 8:45 AM UTC

NEW DELHI Dec 15: India and the UK on Tuesday expressed commitment to expeditiously conclude the negotiations for the proposed free trade agreement (FTA), which would help boost two-way commerce. The agreement was discussed during the meeting between Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and UK Secretary of State for International Trade Kemi Badenoch here.

Both ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the ongoing India-UK FTA negotiations which would unlock the full potential of boosting jobs, investments and exports between the two countries, the commerce ministry said in a statement.

“While expressing satisfaction on the state of negotiations it was agreed that the negotiations will continue further with the aim to conclude the same at the earliest,” it said.

Both ministers urged their negotiating team to work together with an aim to iron out the differences by accepting each other’s sensitivities, for a balanced, mutually beneficial, fair and equitable outcome.

While replying to a query about Indian student visas, the UK trade secretary said that it is not on the agenda for the free trade agreement talks between India and the UK.

She said: “We need to look at them separately. The trade deal looks at mobility, which is different from migration, and we have lot of great business people coming to the UK from India and we welcome them. They are very clever, very industrious, the same as the students. The trade deal is really around business and economic growth. So, student visas aren’t something I would be looking at in an FTA. It doesn’t mean we are not doing it, but the text of the FTA is something that survives the test of time, something that India has also said. It has to be sustainable. India has the most student visas that the UK issues, but an FTA is on trade and we want to focus on trade matters, rather than bringing in other things that are not specific to it”.

The bilateral meeting was followed by the interaction of the two ministers with India and the UK businesses.

Goyal asked the businesses in India and the UK to take advantage of initiatives taken by the government for the economic prosperity of both countries.

The UK Trade Secretary is here to kickstart the sixth round of free trade agreement negotiations.

The negotiations are happening after a brief gap due to recent political developments in the UK. The last round of talks was held on July 29. Negotiations for the FTA started on January 13 this year.

In a free trade agreement, two countries either significantly reduce or eliminate customs duties on the maximum number of goods traded between them.

The UK side is demanding a cut in import duty for different sectors including automobile and Scotch whisky, besides easing of Indian intellectual property regime.

India and Britain launched negotiations with the aim to conclude talks by Diwali (October 24), but the deadline was missed due to political developments in the UK.

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

Reduction or elimination of customs duty under the pact would help Indian labour-intensive sectors like textiles, leather, gems and jewellery to boost exports in the UK market.

The bilateral trade between the two countries increased to USD 17.5 billion in 2021-22 compared to USD 13.2 billion in 2020-21. India’s exports stood at USD 10.5 billion in 2021-22, while imports were USD 7 billion.

India’s main exports to the UK include ready-made garments and textiles, gems and jewellery, engineering goods, petroleum and petrochemical products, transport equipment and parts, spices, metal products, machinery and instruments, pharma and marine items.

Major imports include precious and semi-precious stones, ores and metal scraps, engineering goods, professional instruments, non-ferrous metals, chemicals and machinery.

The UK is also a key investor in India. New Delhi attracted foreign direct investment of USD 1.64 billion in 2021-22. The figure was about USD 32 billion between April 2000 and March 2022.

In the services sector, the UK is one of the largest markets in Europe for Indian IT services.