‘Workers’ mobility issue is key to U.K.-India FTA’

Wed 22 Feb 2017

High Commissioner Y.K. Sinha says negotiating bilateral trade pacts are easier.  

Resolving the issue of workers’ mobility would be “key” to a post-Brexit free trade agreement, said Y.K. Sinha, India’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

Speaking at an event on opportunities for post-Brexit collaboration between the two countries, he said that while negotiating a bilateral trade agreement would potentially be easier than one with the entire block, for India, it was essential to ensure that its professionals, particularly in the financial services sector and IT services sectors, were able to visit and return freely. “For India, mobility is key.”

“The EU and India have been negotiating a free trade agreement since 1997, but we didn’t make headway for various reasons,” he said, adding that among them were issues that Britain had with the draft agreement.

“When you are negotiating with a large grouping there are other interests you have to keep in mind. However, when you are negotiating a bilateral deal, it makes it easier,” Mr. Sinha said, pointing to a joint working group that had been set up last year.

Enabling free movement of workers would benefit both Britain and India, he said. “They contribute immensely to the economy they live in and when they go back they contribute immensely to India.”

The event, organised by FICCI and the University of East Anglia, is the latest in a number of discussions taking place around the potential of the relationship. Britain is eager to negotiate an FTA with India. During a visit to India last November, Prime Minister Theresa May stressed her eagerness to secure such a deal.

‘Uncertain situation’

“We are confronted with an uncertain situation,” Mr. Sinha said. “Whatever scenario emerges, we need to be prepared and it’s important for us to see how we can leverage the situation to our advantage. Of course, trade is good but we haven’t tapped its potential.” He pointed to a Commonwealth study published last year that estimated a 25% boost to U.K.-India trade should a post-Brexit FTA be implemented.

While bilateral trade could see a boost, in the short term, the Brexit uncertainty is likely to hit Indian investment into the U.K., said Dr. Didar Singh, Secretary General of FICCI.


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