India-UK Free Trade Pact No Longer Has A Diwali Deadline: UK Minister
According to UK Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch, the free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with India are no longer aiming for a Diwali deadline.
The Cabinet minister in charge of the FTA negotiations at the Department for International Trade (DIT) said the deal being lined up with India would bring great wins for the industry as the steep tariffs of up to 150 percent are set to be lowered on Thursday during a visit to a Scotch whisky distillery.
The goal is no longer to finalise a draught agreement by October 24 despite the fact that the negotiations are going well.
“We are close. We’re still working on a deal. One of the things that has changed is that we are no longer working to the Diwali deadline,” Badenoch told the BBC.
“We’ve closed a lot of chapters (the sections for the negotiating text). The negotiations are progressing well. But we want to focus on the quality of the deal rather than the speed of the deal. Given the changes that have taken place – not just in government but the mourning period (for the Queen) and so on, it makes sense for us to focus on the deal rather than the day,” she said.
With the DIT previously only stating that the government “won’t sacrifice quality for speed,” this is the first formal indication that both parties are no longer looking towards Diwali as the closing deadline for the majority of the agreement.
The previous prime minister Boris Johnson had set the Diwali schedule on his visit to India in April, and it was widely anticipated that it would prove to be a tight deadline given the political turmoil that ensued in the UK. The recent comments made by Home Secretary Suella Braverman raising doubts about the possibility of visa waivers for India as part of an FTA were also perceived as derailing the negotiations.
“The UK-India Free Trade Agreement is a truly once-in-a-generation, transformational opportunity for Scotch Whisky and we hope today’s visit will have given the Secretary of State a real understanding of our industry and the positive impact the India FTA could have on the sector,” noted Ewan Andrew, President of Global Supply Chain and Procurement at Diageo.
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