LONDON, July 21 (Reuters) – Talks between Britain and India on a free trade agreement (FTA) have gained momentum but further work is needed on services and tariffs to secure a deal, a British source close to the negotiations told Reuters.
Britain began free trade talks with India in January last year as it looks to establish its credentials as an independent trading nation after leaving the European Union and is seeking an Indo-Pacific tilt to its foreign policy.
Talks had seemed stuck earlier this year, with the two sides struggling to make progress in a number of key areas amid concern there could be further political complications if talks drag on. Elections are expected in both countries next year.
However, momentum has improved following the conclusion of the eleventh round of talks this week, the source said, allowing negotiators to turn to more commercially sensitive topics that are likely to be some of the most difficult to resolve.
“The talks certainly kicked up a gear during the last round, and gained momentum, but there is still a long way to go, such as on services or tariffs for various goods,” the source said.
“It’s not about a race to the finish – it’s about driving home an ambitious deal that will benefit us both in the years and decades to come.”
After the ambitious timelines of former prime minister Boris Johnson slipped, current British leader Rishi Sunak has emphasized that his government will take time to strike the right deal.
In a sign of the political impetus in the talks, India’s trade minister Piyush Goyal and Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal both visited London during the round.
The Indian government has said the talks are at a critical stage, and that ministerial engagement during the round had helped to overcome obstacles in talks. The next round is expected to begin in August.
Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Angus MacSwan
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