May lays ground­work for post-Brexit In­dia trade deal

In­dia, Bri­tain launch trade and in­vest­ment talks

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May said Bri­tain would be­come the ul­ti­mate free trade cham­pion as she laid the ground­work yes­ter­day for a po­ten­tial post-Brexit deal with In­dia, the world’s fastest grow­ing ma­jor econ­omy.

In her first bi­lat­eral trip out­side Europe since tak­ing of­fice in July, May said Bri­tain would not “turn its back on the world” once it has left the EU but em­pha­sized that new eco­nomic re­la­tion­ships had to ben­e­fit all sides. May’s visit is an at­tempt to get the ball rolling for a fu­ture trade deal be­tween the two coun­tries, although noth­ing can be signed un­til Bri­tain ac­tu­ally leaves the Eu­ro­pean Union-most likely in 2019.

Ac­com­pa­nied by a del­e­ga­tion of around three dozen busi­ness lead­ers, May ar­rived in the smog-bound cap­i­tal New Delhi late Sun­day and will travel to the south­ern tech hub of Ban­ga­lore to­day.

“On this visit alone more than one bil­lion pounds of busi­ness deals will be signed. And there’s much more we can do,” May told re­porters af­ter meet­ing with In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi.

“We have also agreed to es­tab­lish struc­tural talks at of­fi­cials level to iden­tify what more we can do now be­fore Bri­tain leaves the EU to re­move bar­ri­ers to trade and in­vest­ment.” While the ben­e­fits of a deal to Bri­tain are ev­i­dent, seal­ing one will be no easy task in a coun­try which has been ne­go­ti­at­ing with the EU as a whole on a free trade agree­ment for the best part of a decade.

In­dia still has a rig­or­ous regime of tar­iffs and red tape which have tra­di­tion­ally made it one of the most com­plex places to do busi­ness, even if the po­ten­tial mar­ket is huge. Bri­tain’s need to cut deals quickly once it leaves the EU gives Modi’s gov­ern­ment added bar­gain­ing power. The Hin­dus­tan Times wrote yes­ter­day with Bri­tain’s loom­ing de­par­ture from the EU, “the UK needs trade with In­dia more than ever”.

De­spite their his­tor­i­cal ties from the colo­nial era, bi­lat­eral trade is rel­a­tively low at $14 bil­lion last year-smaller than the vol­ume of trade be­tween In­dia and Ger­many. “In­dia-UK ties are truly spe­cial. It is an en­dur­ing part­ner­ship, which is nur­tured by our shared val­ues, ex­ten­sive peo­ple to peo­ple link­ages,” Modi said, speak­ing at a joint press con­fer­ence with May.

But May of­fered lit­tle ground on re­lax­ing visa rules for In­dian na­tion­als a key is­sue pushed by Delhi-as she aims to keep a tight lid on the num­ber of mi­grants en­ter­ing Bri­tain. Anger at lev­els of im­mi­gra­tion from both in­side and out­side Europe were seen as a cru­cial fac­tor in the out­come of the June ref­er­en­dum when Bri­tish vot­ers opted to pull out of the EU.

But there is par­tic­u­lar un­hap­pi­ness in Delhi over visa re­stric­tions on stu­dents want­ing to stay on in Bri­tain af­ter com­plet­ing uni­ver­sity cour­ses which have led to a 50 per­cent drop in In­di­ans en­rolling. May an­nounced two changes that will ben­e­fit In­dian busi­ness trav­ellers, while in­sist­ing that Bri­tain’s cur­rent poli­cies al­ready en­sure that “the bright­est and the best of In­dia’s stu­dents” con­tinue to be wel­comed. In­di­ans trav­el­ling on work visas will be al­lowed to join the “reg­is­tered trav­ellers scheme”, which al­lows users to speed through im­mi­gra­tion at some bor­ders. The In­dian gov­ern­ment will be able to nom­i­nate top ex­ec­u­tives for the “Great Club”-a be­spoke visa ser­vice for busi­ness trav­ellers first launched in 2013. May said rules could be relaxed fur­ther if In­di­ans who over­stay their visas could be re­turned home more quickly.

“The UK will con­sider fur­ther im­prove­ments to our visa of­fer if, at the same time, we can step up the speed and vol­ume of re­turns of In­di­ans with no right to re­main,” she said.

The govern­ments also agreed a part­ner­ship to help In­dia de­velop “smart cities”, which are de­signed to be mod­els of ur­ban plan­ning-one of Modi’s pet projects.

— AFP

NEW DELHI: In­dia’s Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi (right) shakes hands with Bri­tain’s Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May prior to a meet­ing in New Delhi yes­ter­day. Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May said Bri­tain would be­come the ul­ti­mate free trade cham­pion as she laid the ground­work yes­ter­day for a po­ten­tial post-Brexit deal with In­dia, the world’s fastest grow­ing ma­jor econ­omy.

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