February 9, 2023
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Free Trade Agreement “ASAP”: Rishi Sunak Details His Talks With PM Modi

The majority of the substantive negotiation discussions were wrapped up at the end of last month, according to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, but the UK government is still committed to moving “as quickly as possible” towards a successful conclusion of the ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) talks with India.

The British Indian leader informed Parliament at a House of Commons debate on the G20 Summit in Indonesia on Thursday that, in his first meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi since taking office at 10 Downing Street, he had discussed the FTA’s progress.

Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, and lawmakers from his own Conservative Party questioned him on the timing for the conclusion of the agreement with India.

“I discussed the free trade agreement with India, and both the Prime Minister of India and I committed our teams to working as quickly as possible to see if we can bring a successful conclusion to the negotiations,” said Prime Minister Sunak.

“Without negotiating all these things in public, I am pleased that the majority of the substantive negotiation conversations were concluded by the end of October. We will now work at pace with the Indian teams to try to resolve the issues and come to a mutually satisfactory conclusion,” he said.

More generally, he reaffirmed the UK government’s position that he would not “compromise quality for haste” since it is crucial to take the time to get trade agreements correctly, especially in light of the missed Diwali deadline for the FTA.

Rishi Sunak was asked about his other conversations with PM Modi and whether he brought up topics like India’s stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the UK being an exception within Europe to not be offered the e-visa facility. He acknowledged that these topics were discussed and will continue to be on the government’s agenda.

He asserted that the G20 communique’s “strong language of condemnation over Russia’s aggression” provided “enormous reassurance” on India’s “non-aligned” stance on the Ukraine conflict.

“We also announced the mobility scheme to enable young people from India to come here and young Brits to go there, which is a sign of what is possible. Such exchanges are positive both for our countries and for the young people who benefit,” he said, with reference to the new UK-India Young Professionals Scheme launched at the summit earlier this week involving 3,000 new reciprocal visa offers annually for under-30s – dubbed as “good for both Indian students and British students who want to go back and forth”.

Picture Courtesy: Google/images are subject to copyright

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