The launch of negotiations to secure a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the UK and India has been welcomed by the Northern Ireland business community as offering significant opportunities for many sectors including agri food.
The negotiations were launched in New Delhi on January 13, with International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan meeting with her counterpart, Indian minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal, to formally commence talks on securing a deal.
In 2019, 125 businesses in Northern Ireland exported more than £25m worth of goods to India.
Securing an FTA could potentially boost exports there by an annual £71m, according to the Department for International Trade.
Currently, India charges huge import taxes on important UK exports; for example, 150% on whiskey. An FTA removing costly barriers to trade would help distilleries across Northern Ireland reach customers in India’s huge and growing middle class.
“A Free Trade Agreement with India presents significant opportunities for businesses in Northern Ireland,” said Ann McGregor, chief executive, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce.
“Our members see potential to grow export sales within a wide range of sectors including key areas such as agri-food, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing textiles and engineering. Further, the benefits of accessing sustainable supply chains and digital expertise are important facilitators for business growth.
“We would welcome the removal of market access barriers around issues such as origin on finished goods imports, tariffs and the alignment of standards. Given the potential, NI Chamber and our members, including both importers and exporters, welcome the launch of the UK-India trade talks and look forward to opportunities the agreement will provide for the growth of the NI economy.”
UK-wide, the Department said securing an FTA with India could boost total trade by up to £28bn a year by 2035 and increases wages by up to £3bn.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “A trade deal with India’s booming economy offers huge benefits for British businesses, workers and consumers. As we take our historic partnership with India to the next level, the UK’s independent trade policy is creating jobs, increasing wages and driving innovation across the country.
“The UK has world-class businesses and expertise we can rightly be proud of, from Scotch whisky distillers to financial services and cutting-edge renewable technology. We are seizing the opportunities offered in growing economies of the Indo-Pacific to cement our place on the global stage and deliver jobs and growth at home.”
Trevelyan said: “A deal with India is a golden opportunity to put UK businesses at the front of the queue as the Indian economy continues to grow rapidly. By 2050 India will be the world’s third largest economy with a middle class of almost 250 million shoppers.
“We want to unlock this huge new market for our great British producers and manufacturers across numerous industries from food and drink to services and automotive.
“As an independent, deal-making nation the UK is broadening our economic horizons and forging stronger partnerships with the fastest-growing economies of the world. India marks the start of our ambitious 5-star year of UK trade and will show how the deals we negotiate will boost the economies across all nations and help level up all regions of the UK.”