Editorial✍

Recalibrating the UK-India trade partnership

Growing India-UK trade and investment relationship:

  • The time is right for the businesses and governments, to grow the trade and investment relationship between India and the UK.
  • The shift in global circumstances have unveiled new and unexpected opportunities.
  • Businesses on both sides have an ambitious, enthusiastic approach to the future of our economic cooperation.
India’s Exports to UK

UK-India economic partnership is already strong:

  • The UK-India partnership is already strong.
  • In 2019, trade between our countries hit £24 billion, up by almost 10% from an year earlier.
  • The two countries enjoy a robust investment relationship, with British and Indian investments supporting over half a million jobs in each other’s economies.
  • The UK has been the second-fastest growing G20 investor in India over the last ten years, driving investment over £21.48 billion.
  • Even before the coronavirus hit, the UK was India’s second largest research partner and joint research will be worth £400 million by next year.

Potential for a much stronger relationship:

  • There is the potential for a much stronger relationship between India and UK.
  • The benefits include new jobs, economic growth and new avenues to co-create and co-innovate.

Work is on to enhance trade partnership leading to FTA:

  • The steps for strengthening this partnership were discussed at the UK-India Joint Economic Trade Committee (JETCO) held in July.
  • The two countries were represented by their trade and commerce officials in the government.
  • They agreed to an Enhanced Trade Partnership with a road map to a potential free trade agreement (FTA) in the future.

Focus sectors

  • At JETCO, three sectors were of main focus, with recommendations submitted to remove market access barriers within those fields.
  • Each sector is an important part of the trading relationship and will only become increasingly so:
    • Healthcare and life sciences: Medical and pharmaceutical trade contributed £506 million to bilateral trade in 2019
    • Digital and data services contributed £980 million
    • Food and drink contributed £724 million
  • Business-to-government dialogue is expected to continue and both governments must deliver against the recommendations made.

Healthcare and life sciences:

  • The covid pandemic has highlighted the need for all countries to have appropriate healthcare, including the right infrastructure, medical equipment, and medicines to meet demands.
  • Importantly, it brought focus on the importance of international collaboration to share expertise and generate better outcomes for the entire world. 
    • Vaccines: The joint venture between Oxford University, AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India on a potential vaccine is an example of the great things that the UK and India can achieve together.
    • Medicines: The export of 2.8 million packets of paracetamol and 11 million facemasks from India to the UK underlines the importance of a strong partnership in overcoming challenging circumstances.
  • Looking to the future, enabling the UK and India to collaborate more effectively through shared procurement portals, knowledge and training transfer, and standards alignment will certainly benefit both countries.

Digital and data services:

  • Data and digital technology have so much potential to benefit both the countries, including the delivery of higher education, advanced skills development, AI and machine learning, healthcare etc.
  • That’s why the UK recently launched initiatives to support scientists in academia and industry to tackle today’s most acute global challenges:
  • The Innovation Challenge Fund for the AI-Data cluster in Karnataka to tackle Covid-19
  • The Future Mobility cluster in Maharashtra to tackle climate change
  • Going forward, businesses would benefit from a data adequacy agreement that would allow the free flow of data between the UK and India, subject to data protection standards.
  • This could have huge benefits for knowledge and innovation in fields like healthcare and education, and to identify new opportunities.

Food and drink:

  • Making it easier for farmers and businesses to sell their products in both markets is paramount, subject to appropriate standards and regulations.
  • This has various benefits, including:
    • Opening new markets to sellers
    • Increase in supply and the variety of quality products available to consumers in both markets
    • Enabling India to collaborate with the UK on technological innovation in cold chain infrastructure and food processing.

Conclusion:

  • Post Brexit, the UK is establishing a new trading relationship with the world.
  • This, coupled with India’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ self-reliant mission, there are boundless opportunities for mutual growth and economic enhancement.
  • Successfully implementation of the above business-led recommendations in focus sectors will build momentum for the next steps towards newer frontiers of the UK-India trade relationship.

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