The UK wants an early harvest trade package with India that includes tariff reduction on Scotch whisky and a bilateral data adequacy agreement prior to finalisation of a full-fledged free trade agreement, according to the UK India Business Council (UKIBC).
“There is a prospect of an early harvest agreement which will not be comprehensive but include some important elements. One of the items in the package can be Scotch whisky. Goyal (Indian Commerce Minister) was on record last year saying that he would like to reduce tariffs on Scotch. I think that would be fantastic for both the UK and India,” said Kevin McCole, Managing Director, UKIBC, in an interview with BusinessLine.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson agreed on an ‘Enhanced Trade Partnership’ at a virtual summit in May this year laying the roadmap for more than doubling bilateral trade by 2030 and declaring their intention to negotiate an FTA.
Key areas of cooperation
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McCole said that consultations between the UK government and stakeholders on the FTA were already in full swing and would conclude on August 31.
“UKIBC is engaging with UK and Indian businesses. We are working on providing inputs to the government for the FTA. After August 31, the governments will start shaping their negotiating positions,” McCole said.
He added that the actual negotiations between the two governments were likely to begin before the year-end.
The UKIBC will also consult India on the proposed FTA. The Council will get in touch with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade and other Ministries and departments concerned to discuss priorities, McCole said, adding that India was receptive to ideas.
On the UK industry’s wish for lowering tariffs on Scotch whisky, McCole said that it will be good for Indian consumers because they will get access to high quality product at lower prices and will be a big win because a vast majority of the Scotch is imported by India in bulk and then used to blend Indian whisky. Lower tariffs will definitely benefit Scotch distillers in Scotland and would thus be a win-win for all, he added.
Another priority area was an India-UK data adequacy agreement that would bring about an alignment in data protection related to both personal and non-personal data, McCole said.
“It will be really critical for ensuring that digital trade flourishes between the two countries,” he said.
On the on-going G-7 meeting being hosted by the UK, McCole pointed out that it is focussed on global recovery from coronavirus, free and fair trade, tackling climate change and preserving the planet’s biodiversity where India and the UK were already working together and planned to intensify cooperation.