Traders list 240 goods for free trade agreement talks with UK

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Whisky, cars, vaccines, basmati rice, wool, and tea pre-mix top a list of 240 odd products the Indian industry has identified for import duty cuts in the United Kingdom under a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries. The industry has come up with the list of products for greater market access in the UK as the two countries gear up to launch formal negotiations on an FTA.

“An FTA with the UK will offset some of the disadvantages that India has vis-a-vis Vietnam” and boost India’s share in the UK’s imports over the coming years, said Ajay Sahai, director general of Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO). The federation has called for doing away with the 4% import duty on wool and yarn as no such duty is paid by other European and Turkish suppliers to the UK, and 3.1% duty on instant coffee.

An FTA with the UK is significant for Indian exporters because their rivals from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan enjoy duty-free benefits under the UK’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences.

The two countries will start joint scoping discussions on October 1 to finalise the terms of reference to launch the negotiations in November, the government had said recently.

They plan to put in place an interim agreement by March 2022 followed by a comprehensive agreement.

The interim trade pact would involve early tariff or market access concessions on certain key high priority products and services, the two sides had decided last week.

Indian industry is also keen to gain market access for its whisky in the UK. Out of the around 73 million cases of alcoholic beverages that India had exported in 2019-20 only 30,000 cases went to the UK and EU combined.

The UK has put in place barriers such as the requirement of grain-based spirit, something that most Indian companies can’t fulfil as liquor here is mostly made from molasses due to high sugar production. Another parameter mandates that the whisky should’ve aged for three years.

Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) has pushed for Indian whiskies to be allowed to be sold in the UK as whiskies irrespective of whether they are made from malt, grain spirits or molasses-based spirits.

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