British industry pitches for resumption of India-EU trade talks
India and the European Union (EU) should restart their bilateral trade talks and take steps to conclude the much-awaited free trade agreement, Sir Michael Rake, President of the Confederation of British Industry, has said.
“This will be a symbol of openness and a big signal that India really wants to operate at the global level. We need to build on the work already done,” Rake told BusinessLine in an interview here.
Confederation of British Industry is UK’s premier business lobbying organisation, providing voice for employers at national and international level.
Rake said this could be a “good moment” to re-energise the trade talks with a new Indian Government already in office and a new Commission (European) expected at Brussels from November 1.
The proposed India-EU bilateral trade and investment agreement (BTIA) is far from concluded, despite several rounds of negotiations that began in the year 2007.
Rake, who is Chairman of BT Group Plc, was visiting New Delhi for a India-UK business gathering, besides opening of a new BT building at commercial business hub at Gurgaon in Haryana.
He said that the global trade was expected to slow down and that made it even more important to re-energise the India-EU trade talks and conclude it at the earliest.
“Whatever be the problems, India needs to recognise that EU has nearly half-a-billion wealthy consumers. There is a large middle class out there (EU)”, he said.
Largest trading partner
The EU-28 is currently India’s largest trading partner, accounting for about 15 per cent of total trade in goods and services.
“British industry is very keen on the India-EU FTA. Bilateral treaties are important especially after the WTO Doha round collapse.
We should get to the level best of treaty we can. It is better to have some treaty than having none.”
Rake’s remarks are significant as it came at a time when the India-EU bilateral commercial relationship are somewhat strained, due to series of tax disputes involving EU companies and also the recent EU ban on import of mangoes from India.
During his current visit, Rake met India’s law and information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The British business community is confident that the new Modi-led Government would deliver on its promise of being a business-friendly dispensation, Rake said, adding that already there is some speeding of decision making.
Clarity of taxation policy is important and that is already beginning to emerge, Rake added.
UK’s visa restrictions
British business is also very keen that visa restrictions (at UK’s end) be eased so that more skilled Indians can move to the UK.
“We need more high-level engineers and other skilled people that India produces to move to the UK.
We (in UK) still have the problem of net migration policy, which means shortage of visas for skilled people. Tackling this issue will be healthy for the UK-India relations”
This is nothing to do with EU’s free movement of labour, but only to do with the UK, he clarified.
Publication date: 10/15/2014