India and the United Kingdom are aiming to start negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries by November 1 this year, while they are hoping to finalise an interim agreement by March next year.
Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal held discussions with UK Secretary of State Elizabeth Truss on FTA and other trade related measures.
Following the meeting, Goyal tweeted on Monday, "India & UK are strengthening trade ties by moving towards an early harvest deal, followed by a comprehensive FTA."
In a statement on Tuesday, the Commerce and Industry Ministry said the two sides are looking for an interim agreement as a priority and later a comprehensive agreement.
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The proposed FTA is expected to unlock extraordinary business opportunities and generate jobs. Both sides have renewed their commitment to boosting trade in a manner which benefits all, it said.
During the discussions, Goyal said there is a tremendous interest in the business community in both countries about the FTA and that both countries have made substantial progress on various aspects of the partnership since the 'Declaration’ on launch of Enhanced Trade Partnership', announced by Prime Ministers on May 4 this year.
He said there is a keenness to have an early conclusion of negotiations for quick and early economic benefits to businesses on both sides.
Substantial work has already been done and extensive stakeholder consultations have been held involving industry/ business associations, export promotion councils, buyers/ sellers associations, regulatory bodies, ministries/ departments, public research bodies, among others. The consultation paper was also made public for wider participation as well, the statement quoted Goyal as saying.
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Further, bilateral working groups for different tracks have been formed to understand ambitions, interests and sensitivities of each other to facilitate accelerated progress during the negotiations. The meetings of these groups are presently in progress and are likely to be completed by September.
These discussions, Goyal said, would help both the sides in understanding each other’s policy regimes and put them in a better position when both sides begin their joint scoping discussions on October 1 for finalising the terms of references for launch of negotiations in November.
"An interim trade agreement, as a first step of an FTA, would allow both of us to immensely benefit from the early gains of the partnership," the minister said.
Certain services of mutual interest may be included in the interim agreement through request offer approach wherein priority sectors which are immediately deliverable can be included.
"If necessary, we may also explore signing of few Mutual Recognition Agreements in selective services like nursing and architecture services," the statement said.
Goyal emphasised the need to strike a balance between commitments and concessions in goods and services.
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