Hope India-UK FTA not far away, says incoming Ficci UK Council chair

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The India-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations opened in January 2022 and are aimed at significantly enhancing bilateral trade currently worth around GBP 38.1 billion a year

Maryland, ship, Trade, containers, container
The reality is that these things only do happen because we are able to work in partnership with so many people as we transition into this new phase of the India-UK Industry Advisory Group. (Photo: Reuters)

Press Trust of India London

The proposed India-UK free trade agreement is hopefully not far on the horizon as it will offer immense opportunity to be leveraged within the bilateral partnership, said the new chair of a trade council that has played a key role in shaping the ongoing negotiations.

UK-based tech professional Priya Guha, who invests in women-led innovation as Venture Partner of Merian Ventures, took over as chair of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) UK Council from Baroness Usha Prashar at a hand-over ceremony at the High Commission of India in London on Monday evening.

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The India-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations opened in January 2022 and are aimed at significantly enhancing bilateral trade currently worth around GBP 38.1 billion a year.

The negotiations are now in their fourteenth round of talks, and likely to pick up pace following the Indian general election.

Guha, the British Indian investor, expressed the hope that the bilateral partnership would continue to flourish as she looks to build on the foundations laid by Prashar, who was the first to take on the role at FICCI UK four years ago.

I take this on thinking about the role of research and innovation in the creative industries, the trade partnership and the opportunities that will be leveraged when we’re able to have the FTA in place, which we all hope is not far away on the horizon, said Guha.

The reality is that these things only do happen because we are able to work in partnership with so many people as we transition into this new phase of the India-UK Industry Advisory Group.

One role of business is to make a concrete contribution to economic growth on both sides and clearly, we have that in the India-UK relationship. But, actually, the role of business is so much more to open our eyes to other things, to build cultural ties, to strengthen relationships, to deepen a very strong bond and take that to the new stage of its potential, she said.

The event at India House in London was organised to felicitate Prashar for her relentless work over the years in promoting India-UK trade and cultural ties, including through an FTA memorandum on non-tariff barriers that fed into the policy framework.

We managed to establish a very dynamic and energetic council and establishing it was a masterstroke, said Prashar in her farewell address, as she traced the genesis of FICCI to Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of the ethics of business with purpose.

As we look towards an FTA, there will be a great deal to do to give it effect. The devil is always in the detail and to make things work, FICCI will play a very significant role as and when the FTA happens, she said.

The Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Vikram Doraiswami, led tributes to the House of Lords peer as the first Indian-origin judicial commissioner of the UK and someone who has been a part of the very fabric of the UK.

If we have been successful in the last several months in getting things inch forward in the dial that is the bilateral relationship, a fair bit of the credit, which has never been asked and never been given, I think goes to Baroness Prashar, said Doraiswami.

As and when the free trade agreement gets signed, FICCI will continue to help leverage all the potential that lies unlocked because there is a huge opportunity for a forward-looking India-UK relationship that is based on at least three key pillars of research and innovation, education and capacity building, and trade opportunities, he added.

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