India and the UK are presently involved in challenging negotiations for a free trade agreement, and with positions on critical matters becoming more rigid, it seems increasingly probable that the discussions will continue into November, as reported by Bloomberg, citing information from two sources familiar with the negotiations.
Although significant headway has been made in the negotiations, with many chapters effectively concluded, both sides, however, have now become entrenched in debates surrounding outstanding matters related to goods, services, and investment. The sources cited by Bloomberg, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the discussions, reported the ongoing challenges.
The absence of a breakthrough on these remaining points of contention threatens to prolong the timeline for a trade deal. Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously expressed his desire to finalise the agreement by Diwali last year. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had even extended an invitation to his British counterpart, Rishi Sunak, to visit India and sign the deal at the end of October. However, this schedule is now expected to be postponed unless the lingering issues are resolved.
According to the Bloomberg report, this week, a team of Indian trade negotiators have arrived in the UK to expedite discussions during the ongoing 13th round of negotiations.
Both India and the UK are eager to conclude nearly two years of talks concerning this landmark free trade deal. The agreement aims to provide both of these economic powerhouses with expanded access to each other’s markets, with the ambitious goal of doubling bilateral trade by 2030.
Previously, both nations had exhibited flexibility by making concessions on specific matters. India had agreed to reduce tariffs on British automobiles and scotch whisky, while the UK had been willing to ease certain visa regulations for Indian professionals.
Last week, a delegation of 30 UK officials, led by Amanda Brooks, the director general for trade negotiations, had travelled to New Delhi to address the remaining issues. The ultimate fate of this pact will require a political decision from both Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Sunak to navigate any remaining hurdles.