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UK negotiators in India to accelerate trade deal talks


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A team of British negotiators have left for India to iron out differences and clinch the multibillion-pound free-trade agreement (FTA), The Guardian reports.

Led by a civil servant, the team has been mandated to resolve thorny issues like goods and services chapters, the daily added.

The Sunak administration is eager to secure the FTA with India, a booming economy of 1.4 billion people, as it will improve the Conservative party’s poll prospects.

However, it is also aware that the time is not on its side. Once the general election process rolls out in India, trade negotiations will have to be put on hold.

A UK government official told the daily that after some members of the Labour party’s shadow cabinet visited India last month, there are indications that the Narendra Modi administration hopes it may get a better deal on visas and social security under a Labour party rule.

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Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds and shadow foreign secretary David Lammy had last month met Indian trade minister Piyush Goyal during a trip to Delhi.

The Sunak administration is now worried that India may decide to hold out until after the UK general election, where opinion polls favour Labour.

India wants to secure more visas for Indian workers and ensure them social security payments while working in the UK.

For the Conservative party, this could be a ticklish issue as they are keen to bring down migration.

The UK-India negotiations have been in the final stages for weeks.

UK officials feel the terms being offered by India would not provide greater access to its markets.

British prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss had earlier sought to secure the FTA with India but failed.

Britain feels that this deal would help compensate for the loss of access to the European market after Brexit.

However, sources close to trade secretary Kemi Badenoch told The Guardian that the pessimism about the India deal was growing.

Instead, they are more optimistic about a deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council.


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