Amid British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s two-day visit to India, the two countries are eyeing a series of deals worth £1billion in new investment and exports, in sectors ranging from health to engineering software.
In an interview with CNBCTV-18, Bharat Joshi, co-chairman of the logistics committee of CII and Vinod Giri, managing director of the All India Liquor Confederation, gave their views on the position of India and the UK in their Foreign Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations.
Johnson said he hopes to strike a free trade deal with India by the end of this year. The country has fought for reduced import duties on premium spirits, including Scotch whisky.
Joshi said there were reasons for optimism on 2 or 3 of the difficult topics involving FTAs in India. He said the two recent FTAs, the Australian and the Emirati, will be seen as great precedents in negotiations with the UK for its FTA with India.
Joshi said the Australian FTA allows the import of Australian wine. “The Emirati FTA actually covers the data and digital economy as it is now called, which will be encouraging for many of us,” he said, adding that when it comes to automobiles , they can try to find silver linings in the FTA talks, which will surely be a win-win for both sides.
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In the past, Boris Johnson has repeatedly spoken about the need for India to reduce tariffs on Scotch whisky. Giri said the Indian industry was not against this or any reduction in duties. “What we are looking forward to is a free trade agreement where both parties have something to gain and which provides a level playing field. There should also be sufficient measures to prevent the misuse of FTA concessions,” he said.
Also, the UK’s insistence that every whiskey sold in the UK must have a 3-year maturity is a big business challenge for India, he said. “In the warmer climate of India, we have 10% evaporation loss year on year. So that means if we mature for 3 years, 30% of the whiskey is lost. That’s so something we want them to seriously consider,” he said.
Joshi said the UK was hugely important as a business destination for Indian businesses, especially after Brexit. He said the two nations had a common heritage and people-to-people contact was unparalleled. Even the most popular vaccine to fight COVID-19 is essentially a common Indo-British product, he said. “So I think there’s a lot of evidence to support the cause that this is a very strong partnership and can take off now,” he said, adding that the potential that was capped could be uncapped. “Although the FTA is not a precondition, but if it comes to fruition, then I’m sure all bets are off. There really is no stoppage where this partnership could reach,” said he declared.
Joshi also said he believed there were several areas where Indian companies needed to do more in the market to reduce tariff barriers. These include healthcare, textiles, gems and jewelry, leather, chemicals, among others. “Almost everything we export to the UK we could export a lot more. And a lot of what we don’t export we could start exporting as well,” he said.
Johnson’s visit comes amid geopolitical tensions surrounding the Russian-Ukrainian war and criticism he is facing after the party affair.
While in India, his government tried to postpone a vote on a Labor Bill – should the UK Parliament’s Privileges Committee investigate whether the Prime Minister had misled Parliament because of the party gate. The vote is scheduled for later in the day.
In the next few days the UK will also have elections and local council elections. “This could be an opportunity for voters to have their say on how they feel about partygate. So really, the domestic crisis for Boris Johnson isn’t going away and is high on the agenda” , said Sanjay Suri, European Editor of CNBCTV-18.
He also said the investments are very important for the UK, as is the timing of their announcement. “Johnson is very keen to show that he has a very strong lesson to take away from the visit to India. A trade deal with India and more trade and business with India are at the top of the stated agenda. of Brexit since the early days of the campaign,” Suri said. .
First post: STI