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SOURCE: PTI

The ongoing negotiations for the proposed free trade agreement between India and the UK is likely to be concluded by March 2023, Press Trust of India reported quoting government sources as saying.

India and Britain launched negotiations for the free-trade agreement (FTA) in January with an 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.

Sources said that the commerce ministry has fixed an internal deadline to close the FTA by March next year.

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

The UK is seeking duty concessions in areas like Scotch whiskey and automobiles. New Delhi is also looking for easy business and temporary visa norms for skilled professionals.

Experts have raised concerns that India should not ease norms in its intellectual property rights norms under the trade agreement.

The bilateral trade between the two countries increased to $17.5 billion in 2021-22 compared to $13.2 billion in 2020-21. India’s exports stood at $10.5 billion in 2021-22, while imports were $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 $1.64 billion in 2021-22. The figure was about $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.