UK PM Rishi Sunak expresses hope for successful free trade deal with India

PTI | | Posted by Singh Rahul Sunilkumar
Oct 03, 2023 09:42 PM IST

UK PM Rishi Sunak says hopes to get free trade deal with India done

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has reiterated his commitment to closer India-UK ties across different sectors, including a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (via REUTERS)
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (via REUTERS)

Addressing a reception by the diaspora group Conservative Friends of India (CFIN) on the sidelines of the ongoing Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Monday evening, the British Indian leader began by reflecting upon his “successful” first visit to India as Prime Minister for the India-led G20 Summit last month.

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“I've just come back from my first trip to India as Prime Minister and that was very successful,” said Sunak.

“Everybody here already knows just how strong the relationship between our two countries is. At the G20, we really saw a glimpse of what the future of that relationship can be, with closer cooperation on absolutely everything from trade to defence, innovation, security, research, and I hope… a free trade deal, and we can get it done,” he said.

The 43-year-old politician, who is leading his first Conservative Party conference as leader of the governing party, went on to say that he hopes to build on the success of his first India visit to work together as two “great democracies, shaping the future of the world for the long term”.

“We're working together as partners to build a better future for all our citizens,” he added.

His visit to New Delhi for the G20 Leaders’ Summit in early September had also concluded with a commitment to an India-UK FTA, even as Sunak told reporters that he "won't rush things".

Later in the month, amid a diplomatic standoff between two of its close allies – India and Canada – over the contentious issue of pro-Khalistan extremism, Sunak’s spokesperson at 10 Downing Street had reiterated that trade talks with New Delhi remain on track.

“Work on the trade negotiations will continue as before… when we have concerns with countries we’re negotiating trade deals with, we’ll raise them directly,” the spokesperson told reporters.

According to official UK Department for Business and Trade (DBT) figures, UK-India bilateral trade was worth an estimated 36 billion pounds in 2022.

“We have never set a deadline. I think this is very optimistic briefing for newspapers. We are very close. It is possible, but I wouldn't be setting that sort of deadline. We will finish when we finish,” UK Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch told a UK parliamentary panel recently when asked about the prospect of a return visit by Sunak over the cricket World Cup in India to sign off on an FTA.

Earlier, Badenoch had reviewed progress on the trade talks with her Indian counterpart, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, during a visit to India in August coinciding with Round 12 of the FTA negotiations.

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