14th UK-India Joint Economic and Trade Committee sees commitment to enhanced trade partnership

PTI

File photo: Piyush Goyal (PTI)

File photo: Piyush Goyal (PTI)

UK and Indian Ministers agree to remove barriers to trade as part of a roadmap to a Free Trade Agreement at the first virtual Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO).

The UK India Business Council warmly welcomes the announcement today by UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss, and Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal, that the Governments will establish an Enhanced Trade Partnership, which is the first step on a roadmap to a UK-India free trade agreement.

The UKIBC also welcomes the continued focus of both governments on tackling barriers to trade.

As part of their bilateral discussions, Ms. Truss and Mr. Goyal, joined by UK Minister for International Trade, Mr. Ranil Jayawardena, and Indian Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Mr. Hardeep Singh Puri, met business leaders representing bilateral working groups in three priority sectors: food and drink, life science and healthcare, and digital and data services.

The Co-chairs of each working group presented a series of recommended market access reforms that would boost UK-India trade and investment in each of these sectors. The recommendations were drawn from detailed reports produced by the working groups, which consolidate feedback from a wide range of businesses from across the UK and India.

The feedback was gratefully welcomed by the Ministers, who committed to make progress to implement many of the recommendations.

Following the JETCO, UKIBC Managing Director Kevin McCole said, The enhanced trade partnership announced today, setting the path to a UK-India FTA, is an important signal that both the UK and India are committed to deepening an already strong partnership. It is also important that the governments are retaining their sharp focus on tackling market access barriers, which will not only expand bilateral trade and investment, but build confidence and momentum towards an FTA.

It is vital that Governments hear first-hand from businesses about the opportunities and challenges they face, and, critically, the solutions that would work for them. JETCO facilitates exactly that and the combination of G2G and B2G makes this meeting a unique and important event.

The UK sides of the Working Groups were chaired by senior figures from major UK investors in India: Wilson Del Socorro of Diageo, Patty O’Hayer of Reckitt Benckiser, and Alistair Tebbit of RELX.

Wilson Del Socorro, UK Co-chair of the Food and Drink working group, said, Today was another step forward towards stronger UK-India bilateral trade relations to support the growth of the food and drink sector. There are significant trade and investment opportunities on both sides and we look forward to continuing to be part of the discussions to unlock trade and regulatory barriers working closely with the UK and India Governments through the JETCO process.

Patty O’Hayer, UK Co-chair of the Life Science and Healthcare working group, said, The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that the best way to solve a global problem is through collaborative solutions, possible when businesses and governments come together. The openness and thought sharing which a platform like JETCO provides is key to both our nations futures.

Alistair Tebbit, UK Co-chair of the Digital and Data Services working group, said, Now is the time for us to capitalise on the huge strengths of India and UK in digital and data services and find ways of boosting investment, innovation and jobs as our two economies emerge from the pandemic. I hope that working closely with both governments we can turn these proposals, which have been put forward by leading Indian and UK tech business, into practical initiatives.

The bilateral Ministerial meeting was followed by a virtual Plenary addressed by Mr. Jayawardena, Lord Grimstone, UK Minister for Investment, Mr. Singh Puri, and Mr. Ajay Piramal, Co-chair of the UK India CEO Forum and Chairman of the Piramal Group.

This year’s JETCO was the fourteenth such meeting between the UK and India of this annual event.

The UK India Business Council is a member-led advocacy and strategic advisory business working to promote trade and investment between the UK and India. UKIBC plays the role of a Secretariat for the JETCO talks and provides a forum for UK companies to enhance their links and develop new partnerships with Indian businesses.

The three JETCO working groups were coordinated by the UK India Business Council (UKIBC) along with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (FICCI).