PM Modi, PM Boris Johnson to boost trade during virtual summit

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson are set to unveil a “Enhanced Trade Partnership” to deepen bilateral cooperation during their virtual summit on Tuesday, part of London’s post-Brexit efforts to conclude new trade deals around the world.

The partnership includes lower trade barriers and improved market access for certain British items such as fruits and medical devices. The partnership is also being described by the British side as a precursor to a possible free trade agreement.

Ahead of the virtual summit, Johnson announced a package of trade and investment deals with India worth £1 billion, including a £240 million investment by the Serum Institute of India (SII) in the UK, that is expected to create more than 6,500 jobs.

This virtual summit is also expected to lead to deeper relationship in healthcare, climate action and defence.

The trade barriers addressed by the Enhanced Trade Partnership include the lifting of restrictions to enable fruit producers across the UK to export their produce to India for the first time, and improved access for medical devices through the acceptance of the “UK Certificates of Free Sale” in India, thus removing the need for additional accreditation of British medical devices exported to India.

Under the partnership, the two sides will also commit themselves to removing barriers in the Indian legal services sector that prevent UK lawyers from practising international and foreign law in India, said a statement from the UK Prime Minister’s Office. This measure “could significantly increase UK legal services exports and UK legal services imports from India”.

The two sides will also work to deepen cooperation in educational services and conclude work on recognition of UK higher education qualifications, which is expected to encourage an increase in student flows, skills transfer and knowledge-sharing between the two sides.

However, experts believe the Indian side is in no rush to sign new free trade deals, especially at a time when the Indian government is pushing its “Make in India” and Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) initiatives. Some Western countries have expressed concerns about these initiatives restricting access to the Indian market.

Johnson’s summit with his Indian counterpart is part of the British government’s pivot to the Indo-Pacific and efforts to conclude more trade deals around the world after the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU). Britain has so far concluded trade deals with Japan and Singapore.

The new trade and investment deals announced by Johnson include new Indian investments of more than £533 million into the UK that are expected to create more than 6,000 jobs in vital sectors such as health and technology, and deals worth £200 million will support low carbon growth.

British businesses have secured new export deals with India worth more than £446 million. This includes CMR Surgical exporting its next generation “Versius” surgical robotic system that helps surgeons perform minimal access surgery under a deal worth £200 million.

Annual trade between India and the UK is currently worth around £23 billion. More than 800 Indian companies have a presence in the UK, which they were using as a base to access markets in the EU.

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