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November 30, 2023

Britain prioritizes India trade deal but refuses to give timeline

Britain’s foreign minister said on Saturday during his first visit to India that the country is a priority for negotiating a free-trade agreement, but he rejected to provide a new date after missing one this month.

After speaking with his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar in New Delhi, James Cleverly predicted that Rishi Sunak, who last week became Britain’s first prime minister with Indian ancestry, will further strengthen bilateral relations.

In an interview at the residence of the British High Commissioner. Cleverly said, “I had a fantastic opportunity to talk about some incredibly important global issues, but also to talk about the strength of the bilateral partnership and about our plans to work more closely with India.”

He declined to comment on the reason why the trade agreement hadn’t been finalized by Monday’s Diwali holiday, as both of Sunak’s predecessors, Liz Truss and Boris Johnson, had hoped during a tumultuous few month in British politics.

Cleverly also refrained from commenting on whether it might be completed this year.

“But this is an important agreement for us and one that we are really prioritizing and one that we will continue to ensure that our officials and our ministers speak about regularly and work hard to deliver,” he continued, “We’ve got a lot of work done. And it’s incredibly important that we remember that an extensive free trade agreement like the one we’re negotiating, it’s never going to be simple, but it’s an incredibly important vehicle to build on our already strong relationship and to make it really future-focused.”

Prior issues included a high import tax on British whisky intended for sale in India. In addition, New Delhi favors facilitating Indians’ access to British visas.

The phrase “we want to make sure that our visa arrangements are swift, easy, and convenient” was cleverly used.

By 2030, the countries seek to treble their current level of $31 billion in bilateral commerce.

When questioned about a G7 proposal to control the price of Russian oil and its attempt to get support from nations like India, Cleverly responded that Britain will not dictate New Delhi’s foreign policy. India and Russia have strong defense connections, and since the Ukraine crisis began, India has increased its purchases of Russian oil.

“I don’t think it would be right for me as a British politician to dictate policy to another country,” he said.

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