NEW DELHI: India and the United Kingdom are looking at an early harvest scheme or a limited trade agreement to lower tariffs on a small set of goods apart from easing rules for select services in what is seen as a preparation for a free trade agreement.
The issue was discussed by the Joint Economic and Trade Committee, co-chaired by commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal and the UK secretary of state for international trade Elizabeth Truss.
“Minister Goyal and SoS Truss affirmed their shared commitment to a FTA and towards that, early harvest deals in a staged manner,” an official statement said. Indian officials said that the government is looking at a time frame of around a year to clinch the early harvest agreement with junior trade minister Hardeep Puri and his UK counterpart Ranil Jayawardena scheduled to hold monthly meetings to intensify the dialogue.
A deal with the UK — coming within days of a fresh push for trade agreements with the US and the European Union — are seen to signal India’s keenness to move ahead after it decided to exit talks for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement with Asean countries, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea and China.
The United Kingdom too is keen to clinch bilateral trade deals after Brexit and India wants to ensure that it does not end up on the losing side given that its garment makers and several other labour-intensive sectors often get an unfavourable deal compared to counterparts from Bangladesh and other rival countries.
In return it is willing to look at lowering the tariff on products such as Scotch, a taboo in the past, realizing that it will not hit UK’s domestic industry.