May seeks to boost trade ties with In­dia be­fore Brexit

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

LON­DON: Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May will use her first bi­lat­eral trade trip since tak­ing of­fice to try to boost ties with In­dia be­fore leav­ing the Euro­pean Union. May’s of­fice said the visit start­ing on Sun­day night would fo­cus on break­ing down bar­ri­ers to trade and in­vest­ment and paving the way for a free trade deal as soon as pos­si­ble af­ter Brexit, which is not ex­pected to hap­pen be­fore 2019.

Ex­plain­ing the choice of In­dia, a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial said: “It mat­ters now more than ever. In­dia is the fastest-grow­ing ma­jor econ­omy.” May said the trip was about seiz­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties of Brexit and “ex­pand­ing our hori­zons and forg­ing stronger part­ner­ships with coun­tries around the world”.

“This is a part­ner­ship about our shared se­cu­rity and shared pros­per­ity. It is a part­ner­ship of po­ten­tial. And on this visit I in­tend to har­ness that po­ten­tial, re­boot­ing an age-old re­la­tion­ship,” she said in a state­ment ahead of the visit. While Bri­tain can­not sign trade deals with third coun­tries un­til it is out­side the EU, the gov­ern­ment is keen to hold prepara­tory dis­cus­sions.

May, ac­com­pa­nied by trade min­is­ters Liam Fox and Greg Hands and around 40 busi­ness rep­re­sen­ta­tives mainly from small- and medium-sized tech­nol­ogy and health­care firms, will ad­dress a tech­nol­ogy sum­mit, have a work­ing lunch with In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and meet busi­nesses. Among rep­re­sen­ta­tives of larger firms join­ing her on the trip are David McMil­lan, CEO of in­surer Aviva, Ivan Menezes, the CEO of drinks firm Di­a­geo and the chair­man of Asi­afo­cused bank Stan­dard Char­tered, John Peace.

May will visit New Delhi and out­sourc­ing hub Bengaluru be­fore leav­ing on Tues­day. Her of­fice said com­mer­cial deals to be signed dur­ing the trip were ex­pected to cre­ate a to­tal of 1,370 jobs in the UK. One po­ten­tial area of dif­fi­culty is her plan to curb the an­nual level of net mi­gra­tion to un­der 100,000 from its rate of more than three times that. In­dia is keen for Bri­tain to wel­come more of its stu­dents and skilled work­ers.

“We want to at­tract the bright­est and the best while also do­ing more to con­trol mi­gra­tion,” the of­fi­cial said. “When we get to ... look­ing at th­ese bi­lat­eral deals we are con­fi­dent that we will be able to do strong and am­bi­tious deals.”

May and Modi will also launch a part­ner­ship on smart cities and ur­ban de­vel­op­ment which could gen­er­ate busi­ness worth up to 2 bil­lion pounds for Bri­tish firms over the next five years, her of­fice said. Bri­tain will press In­dia to al­low its law firms to op­er­ate there, and will also of­fer its gov­ern­ment ex­per­tise in ar­eas such as dereg­u­la­tion and tax to help make In­dia a more at­trac­tive busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment.

The of­fi­cial de­clined to say whether May would specif­i­cally raise with Modi the is­sue of Tata Steel Ltd, which put its Bri­tish steel op­er­a­tions up for sale ear­lier this year but sus­pended it in July due to un­cer­tainty over the Brexit vote. The gov­ern­ment has not given away much de­tail about its Brexit plans, with May only say­ing it wants the best deal to “trade with and op­er­ate within” the EU’s sin­gle mar­ket. Some have sug­gested that if the UK stays in the EU’s cus­toms union it will not be able to strike trade deals with third coun­tries such as In­dia, but the Bri­tish of­fi­cial dis­puted this.

“Turkey is in the cus­toms union but has trade agree­ments with third coun­tries,” the of­fi­cial said.

Turkey has free trade agree­ments with 18 coun­tries in­clud­ing in Asia, north Africa and South Amer­ica, while an­other 12 in­clud­ing Ja­pan and Mex­ico are ac­tively un­der dis­cus­sion, ac­cord­ing to the Turk­ish econ­omy min­istry web­site.

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