Trade pact was not in jeopardy, says official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs

Trade pact was not in jeopardy, says official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs

Negotiations for the India-U.K. Free Trade Agreement are “ongoing” and should be “left” to the Commerce Ministers of both sides, said an official of the Ministry of External Affairs on Friday.

Addressing the weekly press briefing, official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Arindam Bagchi said that the trade pact was not in jeopardy. 

Earlier U.K. Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch had said that the “Diwali deadline” for the FTA deal was no longer valid. Presenting the Indian position on the deadline, Mr. Bagchi said, “There was a general goal of trying to get it done by Diwali but it all depends on the ongoing negotiations. I have not been informed that the negotiations have come to a halt. Let’s not complicate the negotiators’ lives by saying that it has to be done by a certain date,” said Mr. Bagchi. 

Negotiations on the FTA came under a shadow after Home Secretary of the U.K. Suella Braverman said that the deal could increase migration of Indians to the U.K.

 “I have concerns about having an open-borders migration policy with India because I don’t think that’s what people voted for with Brexit,” ‘The Spectator’ news magazine quoted her saying.

Mr. Bagchi, however, refused to respond directly to Ms. Braverman’s remarks, instead choosing to make “couple of broader points” about the importance of the trade deal and said, “There is interest on both sides to see if they could work towards a deal – that is beneficial to both sides – at an early date. But, this is a trade negotiation and it is best that such matters are left to the trade ministers of both countries.”

Regarding Ms Braverman’s concerns about increased migration from India, the Official Spokesperson said that “mobility and consular matters” are a “separate issue” adding, “There is an understanding between the two nations and going forward, this will require mutual implementation of this understanding.”

British media reports had earlier said that Prime Minister Liz Truss had been “directly” messaging Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, urging him to conclude the trade pact soon.

Sources cited in the reports said that involvement of Ms. Truss had “undermined” negotiation between the two sides. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry here has not responded on the reports of Ms. Truss communicating with Mr. Goyal with a possible plan to get the deal ready ahead of a likely visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the coming weeks.

The U.K. media had blamed “Downing Street haste” for “scuppering” the FTA with India but Mr. Bagchi denied that, and reiterated India’s desire for a “good deal”.

The Deepavali deadline for the trade pact was announced earlier this year when Boris Johnson, predecessor of Ms. Truss, visited India. Following the announcement, delegations on both sides have held multiple rounds of negotiations in hybrid fashion with the goal to achieve the deal by October-end. 

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By Dipak

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