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India-UK trade deal on the anvil

India-UK trade deal on the anvil

India is set to look at a bilateral trade deal with the UK as the latter quit the European Union single market on Thursday. Sources said that talks on a possible trade deal is already under discussion and could be thrashed out at the earliest. The UK left the EU officially on December 31.

“India needs to move fast if it has to gain from the growing anti-China sentiment. Other countries like Vietnam are moving fast on such trade deals. New Delhi should ensure that it does not miss out on an opportunity,” an analyst said.

Analysts said that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s slated visit to India will also be critical to take the trade talks forward.

Vietnam and Singapore have just signed a free trade agreement with the UK, which has been looking at bilateral trade and economy agreements with several countries to prepare for the Brexit era. Vietnam is emerging as a strong competitor to many other economies in trade related issues.

Even as the FTA talks with EU have been stalled since 2013 after differences on various issues could not be ironed out, sources said that thrashing out a bilateral deal with UK will be simpler and needs to be taken up on priority. India is also keen to revive talks for a possible trade pact with EU and the US.

“India must ink a bilateral trade agreement at the earliest especially as many other countries including Vietnam have already inked deals with Britain to boost trade. Thrashing out a bilateral trade deal will be easier for India compared to one with EU as the complexities will be less,” Federation of Indian Export Organisations director general and CEO Ajay Sahai told IndiaNarrative.com.

Sahai also pointed out that though as negotiations over such deals are typically time consuming, India and UK could look at a settling trade agreements related to a few segments while working on the overall free trade agreement.

The EU is India's largest trading partner accounting for 11.1 per cent of total Indian trade, on par with the US and ahead of China (10.7 per cent).

Sources said that India, too is keen to look at bilateral trade deals to boost its exports especially after it pulled out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), . India has not signed any trade agreement since 2012 but the Centre is now actively planning to speed up trade pacts.

Typically, trade agreements including the one with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) bloc have not worked in India’s favour but New Delhi now wants to change its position even as the RSS-affiliated Swadeshi Jagran Manch has shown its scepticism over multilateral trade agreements. It instead said that India must focus on strengthening the Atmanirbhar India plank..