UK trade secretary says free trade deal with India is in ‘final stages’

Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch is visiting India this week to meet G20 trade ministers (PA Wire)
Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch is visiting India this week to meet G20 trade ministers (PA Wire)

UK trade secretary Kemi Badenoch, who is visiting India for a meeting of the G20 trade ministers, said a trade deal with India is in the “final stages”.

“We are now in the final stages [of Free Trade Agreement negotiations], I can’t give a deadline. Anything can happen,” she told reporters on Thursday.

“I don’t like to raise people’s expectations, but I am very optimistic and I am working closely with my counterpart [India’s commerce] minister Piyush Goyal to make sure that we can deliver something that both our countries will find mutually beneficial,” she said.

Ms Badenoch added that the UK government is “very” serious about getting the deal done.

“I cannot go into the details of all the negotiations…the chief negotiators know the details…We don’t want to interfere with the work that they are doing. But what I will say is that like any negotiations, the hardest bit tends to come at the end,” she said.

It was earlier reported that Ms Badenoch’s trip to India is aimed at engaging with fellow trade ministers within the G20 group of nations, rather than convening formal negotiations about a UK-India agreement.

“I am delighted to be returning to India to support their G20 Presidency, further our trade talks and meet key business leaders,” she had said earlier.

UK government sources had earlier told BBC that the UK’s trade negotiations with India are approaching their “final but trickier” stages.

The sources said they were optimistic that a deal could be “months” away and also emphasised that there remain significant hurdles to overcome – “big nuts to crack”.

Reuters reported that talks over a future Free Trade Agreement have made progress in recent months, as was confirmed by the British and Indian sources – fuelling hopes a deal could be reached this year.

“There is a great deal to be done with India, but what happens in the negotiating room will govern the timeline,” an anonymous UK government source was quoted as saying on Thursday.

“We’ve made progress but talks are focused on complex and technical areas including goods, services, and investment.”

On her three-day trip to India, Ms Badenoch will meet Indian commerce minister Piyush Goyal in New Delhi after attending a G20 trade ministers meeting in Jaipur, Rajasthan on Thursday and Friday.