India hopes UK-EU divorce won’t be “very acrimonious”: Suresh Prabhu
Having revived the stalled talks on an FTA with the EU, Suresh Prabhu says India was keen to work on closer trade ties with both the UK and the 28-member economic bloc
London: India is “friends” with both the UK and the European Union and is hopeful that the “divorce” between them after Brexit won’t be “very acrimonious”, union minister Suresh Prabhu said in London on Friday.
Highlighting that India has revived the stalled talks on a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU), the commerce and industry minister stressed that New Delhi was keen to work on closer trade ties with both the UK and the 28-member economic bloc.
“The decision the EU and Britain have taken as a result of the referendum is between them. We are friends with both and hope for a very good outcome and good relations,” Prabhu told reporters. “Even divorces can be mutually agreed and we hope this divorce is not very acrimonious and both sides part on a happy note,” he said.
During his ongoing visit for the India-UK Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) meeting in London, the minister held bilateral talks with UK international trade minister Liam Fox and met with leaders of UK business and industry. He said all groups had expressed a growing interest in India’s growth story and that India-UK ties were “very strong and equally balanced from both sides”.
The recommendations of the joint trade review conducted by both countries were also presented to ministers to continue the work of the India-UK working group on trade, established to remove hurdles in the path of a post-Brexit free trade agreement (FTA).
“India is on track to grow faster and these talks were extremely forward looking but much more needs to be done. However, we have begun the year on a very good note,” Prabhu said. During the bilateral discussions, India also raised its concerns over the mobility of its professionals and reducing “prohibitive” visa fees and called for a scheme which would allow Indian professionals to apply for a six-month UK visa and get access for two years.
“The services sector has to be present on the ground to provide services and the ease of getting visas creates lots of issues for professionals. We stressed on the difference between mobility and migration and I am sure of a positive outcome,” Prabhu said.
On the bilateral front, the minister also revealed the setting up of a new special cell within ‘Invest India’ to encourage UK companies do business in the country and a planned joint event on start-ups to be held in India in March. The energy and advanced manufacturing sectors were highlighted as some of the focus areas for what Prabhu described as a “new industrial revolution”.
Confirming Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK in April for the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) summit hosted by Britain, the minister said India was keen to promote intra-Commonwealth trade and inject “new dynamism” into the bloc.
“The Commonwealth must first create wealth and work on trade issues,” he said. Addressing a separate session on “Commonwealth as a Trade and Investment Bloc” organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council and UK India Business Council on Friday, Prabhu called on the private sector to tap into the huge potential of the group.
“India is fully committed to promote the idea of the Commonwealth as a strong trading bloc and remove roadblocks. There is huge potential of investment within the Commonwealth and it is the right time to reinvent it into a new entity altogether,” he said.
During his UK visit, Prabhu will also address a gathering of students and academics at the London School of Economics (LSE) on the role of trade and investment in driving sustainable and inclusive growth. He will also address the Indian diaspora in the UK alongside minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju at an event organised by the Indian High Commission in London. PTI
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