UK deal negotiators surprise Indian counterparts

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Days after India sealed a trade pact with four European nations, the long-winded discussions for a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom seem to have hit a rough patch once again.

Sources have told Business Today Television that Indian negotiators were taken by surprise by their British counterparts raising old demands for concessions at recent meetings.

The India-UK trade deal has been hanging for over two years now. As many as 14 rounds of negotiations have been held so for, and the expectation was that the deal would be done last December. That has not transpired, and given that India is set for a general election, any agreement will have to wait for the new government to take oath by June.

However, Indian negotiators have been surprised by old demands being refreshed at recent meetings. “FTA negotiations with the UK are at an advanced stage, but some members representing Britain are now raising old demands. This is further stretching the discussions,” an official said.

The British negotiators have renewed demands for Indian to provide tariff concessions on alcohol, automobiles, and dairy products. Meanwhile, India has stuck to its demand for greater mobility for its professionals in the UK.

On asking when the next round of negotiations would be held, the official said it would be not be before June this year. “We have been asked for more concessions. If we were to accept them, then the UK will have to reciprocate,” he added.
The UK-India FTA has been under discussion for the past 26 months. It started in January 2022, and it was expected that it would conclude by Diwali 2022.

Meanwhile, the Indian government yesterday signed an FTA with a group of four European countries — Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland — who committed to invest $100 billion in India to create one million direct jobs over 15 years. This is the third bilateral deal India signed since 2022. It signed an FTA with the United Arab Emirates on February 18, 2022, followed by another deal with Australia on April 2 that year.


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