India, Britain launch talks on free trade deal

FILE- Anne-Marie Trevelyan Secretary of State for International Trade speaks at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, England, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. Trevelyan is in New Delhi and will meet with her Indian counterpart Piyush Goyal in New Delhi on Thursday, Jan. 13. India and Britain are launching talks on pursuing a free trade deal that is expected to boost bilateral trade by billions, making it among the most ambitious negotiations to take place after Brexit. (AP Photo/Jon Super, File)

NEW DELHI — India and Britain on Thursday launched talks on a free trade deal that is expected to boost bilateral trade by billions of dollars in one of the most ambitious negotiations after Brexit. 

Britain’s International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan met with Piyush Goyal, India’s minister of commerce and industry, in New Delhi before formal talks next week. 

“This is the first of my important agreements this year as Britain set out on her independent journey post-Brexit,” Trevelyan told reporters.

She said the countries have a unique opportunity to build ties in trade, defense, climate and health as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Goyal said the free trade agreement, expected to be finalized in one year, will double the current trade of $50 billion by 2030. A British government statement said the deal could potentially double U.K. exports to India and boost two-way trade by $38 billion a year by 2035. 

Both sides hope the deal will bring huge benefits for several industries, from food and drink to cutting-edge renewable technology. 

“A deal with India is a golden opportunity to put U.K. businesses at the front of the queue as the Indian economy continues to grow rapidly,” Trevelyan said, adding that Britain was keen to tap into the growing middle class in Asia’s third-largest economy. 

After leaving the European Union in 2016, Britain has focused its trade policies on the Indo-Pacific region. India, a former British colony, is viewed as a favorable location given uncertainties over the U.K.’s ties with China. 

Investment from Indian companies already supports 95,000 jobs across the U.K., the British statement said. 

Britain is angling for a deal that slashes barriers, including tariffs on exports of British-made cars and Scotch whisky. 

India and Britain have extensive links, with the former investing in 120 projects to become the second-largest source of foreign direct investments after the United States in 2019.