May lays ground­work for post-Brexit In­dia trade deal

The Myanmar Times - - International Business -

PRIME Min­is­ter Theresa May said Bri­tain would be­come the ul­ti­mate free trade cham­pion as she laid the ground­work for a po­ten­tial postBrexit deal with In­dia, the fastest -grow­ing ma­jor econ­omy.

In her first bi­lat­eral trip out­side Europe since tak­ing of­fice in July, Ms May said Bri­tain would not “turn its back on the world” once it has left the EU but wanted new eco­nomic re­la­tion­ships that would ben­e­fit all sides.

“We want Bri­tain to be­come the most com­mit­ted and most pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cate of free trade in the world,” Ms May said in a speech to in­dus­tri­al­ists in the In­dian cap­i­tal.

“That is be­cause free trade cre­ates a ris­ing tide that lifts all boats, it makes all richer, it cre­ates jobs, it in­creases in­vest­ment, it im­proves pro­duc­tiv­ity, it trans­forms liv­ing stan­dards and cre­ates op­por­tu­ni­ties for all our cit­i­zens.”

Ac­com­pa­nied by a del­e­ga­tion of around three dozen busi­ness lead­ers, Ms May ar­rived in the smog­bound cap­i­tal New Delhi on Novem­ber 6 and will travel to the south­ern tech hub of Ban­ga­lore to­mor­row.

Although Bri­tain can­not sign any bi­lat­eral trade deals un­til it has left the Euro­pean Union – most likely in 2019 – Ms May’s visit is seen as sig­nalling a de­sire to get the ball rolling as early as pos­si­ble.

Liam Fox, in charge of a new de­part­ment for in­ter­na­tional trade, is trav­el­ling with her and had de­tailed talks with his In­dian op­po­site num­ber Nir­mala Sithara­man.

Ms May said that “no coun­try owes another coun­try a liv­ing” but there were plenty of ar­eas where Bri­tain and In­dia could work more closely to­gether.

“Iden­ti­fy­ing ... [ar­eas of com­mon in­ter­est] does not need to wait for us to leave the Euro­pean Union,” she said.

While the ben­e­fits of a deal to Bri­tain are ev­i­dent, seal­ing one will be no easy task in a coun­try that 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 In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s govern­ment added bar­gain­ing power.

The Hin­dus­tan Times wrote that 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 US$14 bil­lion last year – smaller than the vol­ume of trade be­tween In­dia and Ger­many.

Mr Modi, who was also due to hold talks with Ms May and her con­tin­gent, said the two gov­ern­ments faced sim­i­lar chal­lenges.

“It is vi­tal that In­dia and the United King­dom, two coun­tries linked by his­tory, work to­gether to de­fine the knowl­edge econ­omy of the 21st cen­tury,” Mr Modi said.

“In the cur­rent global en­vi­ron­ment, our two coun­tries face sev­eral eco­nomic chal­lenges which di­rectly af­fect trade and com­merce. But I am con­fi­dent that to­gether we can lever­age our sci­en­tific strengths and tech­no­log­i­cal prow­ess to cre­ate new op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

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.

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.

Ms May how­ever said Bri­tain al­ready gave In­dian cit­i­zens spe­cial sta­tus by let­ting them ap­ply for same-day visas and planned a new “regis­tered trav­ellers fee” al­low­ing trav­ellers to be fast-tracked through cus­toms.

“It’s cru­cial that those peo­ple who need to travel be­tween our two coun­tries can do so,” she added.

The gov­ern­ments are also ex­pected to sign an agree­ment dur­ing the visit on in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty and launch a part­ner­ship to help In­dia de­velop “smart cities”, which are de­signed to be mod­els of ur­ban plan­ning – one of prime min­is­ter Mr Modi’s pet projects. –

Photo: AFP

Bri­tain’s Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May (left) speaks with In­dia’s Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi dur­ing the In­dia-UK Tech Sum­mit in New Delhi on Novem­ber 6.

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