India, UK reaffirm commitment to early conclusion of FTA.

India and the UK on Monday reaffirmed their commitment to the early conclusion of a “balanced and comprehensive” free trade agreement (FTA) even as the two sides reviewed cooperation in areas ranging defence and security to climate change.

These issues figured in the India-UK foreign office consultations in New Delhi, the first such talks since November 2020. The Indian side was led by foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra and the UK side by Philip Barton, permanent under-secretary in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

“Both sides aspire to early conclusion of a balanced and comprehensive India-UK FTA that may intensify the economic engagement between the fifth and the sixth biggest global economies,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.

India and the UK had earlier unveiled plans to conclude the FTA by October 2022 but the trade deal ran into problems because of British home secretary Suella Braverman’s controversial comments that an agreement could lead to increased migration from India.

The two sides were also unable to bridge differences on key issues such as mobility for professionals and tariffs on automobiles and other products.

Both sides discussed trade and economic cooperation, defence and security, science and technology, health, climate change and people-to-people relations.

They also reviewed progress in implementing the Roadmap 2030, a framework that was agreed in May 2021 and is based on the five pillars of political ties, trade, defence, climate and health.

The two countries also discussed regional and global issues, including the situation in Afghanistan, the Ukraine crisis, Indo-Pacific and the UN. The UK reiterated its support for UN Security Council reforms and “commended” India’s priorities as president of the G20.

Following the exchange of letters formalising the Young Professional Scheme in London on January 9, the scheme will be launched on February 28, the statement said.

The new reciprocal visa arrangement will allow 3,000 degree educated nationals between the ages of 18 and 30 years from both sides to live and work for up to two years in India and Britain.

A readout from the British side said several milestones were achieved in 2022, including an agreement on mutual recognition of academic qualifications and UK trade secretary Kemi Badenoch’s first visit to India in December for the sixth round of FTA negotiations.

Barton underlined the UK’s commitment to the Roadmap 2030.

“Through our comprehensive strategic partnership, the UK and India are together playing a key role in tackling the biggest challenges facing the world today, including food and energy security, economic recovery post-Covid and preventing future pandemics,” he said.

Source- Hindustan Times.

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