London: India and the UK will begin negotiations for a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) from autumn this year after the Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) was formally signed between the trade ministers on both sides on Wednesday.
Following a virtual meeting with Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss confirmed that the ETP agreed between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson at a virtual summit on Tuesday has been officially signed off.
The trade and investment agreement worth around 1 billion pounds has been pegged as aiming for a “quantum leap” in the UK-India relationship, with India elevating the status of its relationship with the UK to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership .
“Today I signed the UK-India Enhanced Trade Partnership with my friend Piyush Goyal, Truss said on Twitter soon after her virtual meeting with the Indian Cabinet minister.
“Together, we have committed to: negotiating a comprehensive free trade deal, starting this autumn; more than doubling trade by 2030; and reducing barriers to trade in key industries, she said.
The sign off follows talks between Modi and Johnson, which culminated in the two leaders agreeing on a 2030 Roadmap’ as a framework for strengthening ties across health, climate, trade, education, science and technology, and defence.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who is in London for the G7 Summit, said he joined those discussions and declared there was a new energy and thinking for UK-India relations visible at the virtual summit.
“We are at an inflection point in our contemporary relations. We have two Prime Ministers very determined to take the relationship to a high level,” the minister said, during a virtual Global Dialogue Series organised by India Inc. Group and the Indian High Commission in London on Wednesday.
“We have a very detailed roadmap. On the economic front, the formal name is an Enhanced Trade Partnership but the bottom line is that there will be early decisions which will increase trade on both sides, the minister said.
“We will negotiate very seriously, and I hope very expeditiously, a Free Trade Agreement with the UK. It’s a very big step. We will be one of the early countries with which UK has made that decision very formally,” he said.
Jaishankar highlighted an Innovation Partnership agreed between the two sides, which holds great promise on working together in areas such as vaccine development and genome sequencing.
“We also had an agreement with a lot of potential in terms of talent flows, which I signed with Home Secretary Priti Patel. It will encourage more Indian talent to come to the UK and will make it much easier for visa processes, he said, in relation to a new Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement signed this week.
The agreement, in the form of a memorandum of understanding (MoU), will offer a route for young people aged 18-30 to live and work in either country for up to two years and also facilitate returns of illegal migrants as a clampdown on immigration fraud.