Dark clouds surface over India-UK FTA

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, October 7: The exit of Boris Johnson appears to have brought dark clouds over the India-UK free trade agreement negotiations. Within weeks of Liz Truss becoming Prime Minister of the UK, the FTA talks on Friday looked certain to miss the Diwali deadline.

The UK’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman in an interview with The Spectator picked up bone of contention, as she alleged that Indians are the largest group of people who overstay their visas her country. Braverman further bared the western paranoia that an FTA with India will herald an open borders migration policy.

This is not a new story, for the European countries and the US have for decades seeking Indian markets for their dairy products but want their economies to be shut for the Indian professionals to work in their domains. For India, services sector is the backbone of its economy, while for the western world they have a wide basket of goods to flood one of the largest markets in Asia.

The spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Arindam Bagchi on Friday made it clear that the migration mobility is part of the FTA agreement. It must be known that the remittances sent by the Indians living abroad equal the foreign direct investment in India, which shows the significance of the migration mobility for any FTA that India would seek to sign.

It must also be known that India walked out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) solely because the participant economies such as China and the East Asian countries want to protect their markets against the Indian professionals while seeking markets in South Asia to dump their goods.

The Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal too joined the raging debate over the FTA with the UK, saying that India would accord top priority to national interest in the negotiations. “FTAs to be entered into after thorough consultation with all stakeholders, including industry, and the government will not diverge from this approach for the sake of deadlines,” said Goyal in a statement that further shed hints of the widening differences with the newly sworn-in Truss government in the UK.

Speaking at the meeting held to review India’s export performance in the first six months of this financial year with key representatives from Export Promotion Councils and Industry Associations in New Delhi, Goyal hinted that a deep dive of services import and see the areas/sectors in which they are increasing is on the cards.

India has signed FTAs with Australia and the UAE, while negotiations are underway with the UK and the European Union.

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