By Aditi Khanna
London, May 8 (PTI) Hundreds of British officials in charge of promoting trade on the ground in countries like India, China and Brazil face losing their jobs as part of cost-cutting measures by the UK government.
The Department for International Trade (DIT) staff have been told to expect up to 10 per cent of trade promotion jobs may be slashed because of a budgetary squeeze, with experts warning it would adversely impact post-Brexit UK trade, according to a media report.
The DIT has more than 3,000 staff and has trade promotion employees based in more than 100 countries and in 174 locations.
?You are taking away jobs in the low hundreds across the network, especially in China, India and Latin America. This is obviously the wrong thing to do, given that 90 per cent of the worlds growth is happening outside the EU,? a trade department official was quoted as saying by ?The Financial Times?.
UK trade minister Liam Fox has hired up to 800 staff to negotiate trade deals after Britains exit from the European Union (EU) but officials warn that the department is simultaneously cutting officials who work on the ground helping British companies sell their products in emerging markets.
It has reportedly triggered a row between Fox and the UK Chancellor, Philip Hammond, the report said.
"A budget problem has arisen because DIT has not got enough money from the Treasury to do everything it needs. As a result, hiring trade negotiators is putting a strain on things and means the costs of expansion can only be met by cutting the number of people on the ground," an official familiar with the row told the newspaper.
The fear of job cuts comes weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi?s UK visit last month, during which the DIT hailed a "huge boost for the UK economy" as a range of new Indian investments worth more than 1 billion pounds into Britain were unveiled.
The department also launched a new India-UK Trade Partnership, which builds on the recommendations that followed the completion of a Joint Trade Review (JTR) between the two countries earlier this year.
"It is clear that that the opportunities for growth in trade with India are plenty, and as an international economic department we will continue to use tools such as trade missions not only to boost UK exports, but also to help businesses of all sizes forge ties and build cultivate relationships with potential buyers and investors,? Fox had said at the time.
The Indian side has also conceded that the broad contours of a new UK-India free trade agreement (FTA) are under discussion but a lot remains predicated upon the final Brexit deal that is struck between Britain and the EU. And, there is growing concern that the UK has very little resources to tackle much more beyond the ongoing Brexit negotiations.
"The UK does not have much bandwidth to do anything but Brexit? the term Global Britain is more of a catch-phrase rather than a policy," says Anand Menon, a professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at Kings College London.
According to DIT figures, total trade in goods and services between the UK and India stood at 18 billion pounds in 2017, a 15 per cent increase from 2016. UK exports to India, led by innovative machinery and mechanical appliances, form a large part of this and increased significantly by 14.9 per cent. PTI AK SMJ AKJ SMJ SMJ