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Modi-Johnson Virtual Summit: PMs announce Enhanced Trade Partnership, FTA


Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his UK counterpart Boris Johnson on Tuesday announced a historic enhanced trade partnership that will pave the way for market access for enterprises, an early harvest trade deal followed by the UK-India Free Trade Agreement. The enhanced trade partnership aimed at creating jobs will lead to early harvest trade deal in the first half of 2022, ET has learnt.

The trade between India-UK in 2019-20 was $15.4 billion. Though steadily rising in recent years, the figure does not reflect the potential for trade between the world’s 5th and 6th largest economies. To seize the opportunities provided by Brexit, the two leaders announced their intent to negotiate a comprehensive and balanced FTA including consideration of an interim trade agreement for delivering early gains.

The ambition is to more than double the bilateral trade by 2030. As part of the confidence-building measures, they have also agreed on an early market access package. The UK will open up the fisheries sector for more Indian players, facilitate more opportunities for nurses, recognise Indian seafarers certificates and also enter into a joint dialogue on the social security agreement. In return, India has agreed to allow fruit and medical devices and mutual recognition of masters degrees and also work towards reciprocal opening of legal services. The actions are likely to generate 20-25,000 new direct and indirect jobs in India, a person involved in the talks told ET.

The virtual summit marked by cordiality and spontaneity witnessed the conclusion of nine declarations and MoUs including one on India-UK migration and mobility partnership that will be implemented from 2022. This MoU creates a new scheme for exchange of young professionals under which every year up to 3,000 young Indian professionals can avail employment opportunities in the UK for two years without being subject to labour market test, officials told ET. The other key MoU on India-UK Global Innovation Partnership will support the transfer of inclusive, climate smart innovations from India to selected developing countries.

Two other key MoUs agreed at the summit were cooperation in the field of telecommunications/ICT and agreement on customs cooperation and mutual administrative assistance in customs matters. Two other key MoUs agreed at the summit were cooperation in the field of Telecommunications/ICT & Agreement on Customs Cooperation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in customs matters. The two countries also agreed to elevate the status of the relationship to a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’.

A big deliverable of the Summit was the launch of Roadmap2030. In line with their vision to achieve a transformational change in bilateral cooperation, both leaders adopted an ambitious Roadmap 2030 to elevate India-UK partnership to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The Roadmap will pave the way for a deeper and stronger engagement over the next ten years, Sandeep Chakrabarty, Joint Secretary (Europe West) MEA told reporters. “Our 2030 vision is for revitalized and dynamic connections between our people; re-energised trade, investment and technological collaboration that improves the lives and livelihoods of our citizens; enhanced defence and security cooperation that brings a more secure Indian Ocean Region and Indo-Pacific and India-UK leadership in climate, clean energy and health that acts as a global force for good,” according to the 2030 roadmap document.

The document’s implementation will be closely monitored through annual strategic review meeting at the Foreign Minister level and the progress reported to the two prime ministers. During their meeting, the prime ministers undertook to work closely together in support of those values, including at next month’s G7 in Cornwall, which India is invited to as a guest nation. Johnson expressed regret that he could not visit India this year till date. The two leaders also discussed the global pandemic situation and ongoing cooperation in the fight against it.

The successful vaccine partnership through the Oxford-AstraZeneca-SII collaboration was highlighted. They agreed to expand partnership on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics on Covid19 and beyond through joint research including on nasal vaccines, regulatory and clinical trial cooperation . India and UK also agreed to substantially strengthen their defence and security engagement including in the maritime, counter-terrorism and cyberspace domains.

UK has recently come up with its Integrated review on Security, Defence and Foreign Policy which identifies India as a key partner. As part of the British tilt to Indo-Pacific, UK has announced the deployment of Carrier Strike Group in the Indo-Pacific Region. India has agreed to conduct joint exercises with the CSG later this year and also launch a new maritime dialogue. Opportunities for defence co-development and co-production were also discussed.

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