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Narendra Modi, Rishi Sunak agree to ‘work at pace’ towards UK-India trade deal | Latest News India

NEW DELHI: India and the UK will “work at pace” to address remaining issues holding up a free trade agreement (FTA) so that a balanced and forward-looking trade deal is concluded soon, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Rishi Sunak agreed on Saturday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Britain counterpart Rishi Sunak during a bilateral meeting on the first day of the G20 Summit (HT Photo)

Recent talks on the FTA, earlier meant to be concluded last year, have focused on contentious areas such as market access for British spirits and automobiles and greater mobility for Indian professionals and students. The UK side has insisted its priority is a broad-based trade deal that benefits both sides rather than a timeline.

The two leaders reviewed the progress of the negotiations and “expressed hope that the remaining issues could be addressed at the earliest so that a balanced, mutually beneficial and forward-looking free trade agreement is concluded soon”, the external affairs ministry said after Modi and Sunak met on the margins of the G20 Summit in New Delhi.

A readout from the British side said the leaders “agreed that ministers and negotiating teams would continue to work at pace towards an FTA”. The readout characterised the conversation about the FTA negotiations as productive and said Sunak “reiterated the UK’s ambition to deliver a landmark trade deal which benefits businesses and workers in both countries and grows our trade in both goods and services”.

Modi conveyed his appreciation for the UK’s support during India’s G20 presidency and the leaders expressed satisfaction in progress in diverse areas of bilateral cooperation in line with the India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and the Roadmap 2030. Both sides noted the progress in economy, defence, security, green technology, health and mobility and the leaders also discussed international and regional issues.

The British readout said the leaders also focused on the growing ties between the UK and India, exemplified in the “living bridge” between the people and “agreed it was important to build on the past and focus on the future” to cement a modern partnership in cutting-edge defence technology, trade and innovation.

Modi and Sunak also discussed a “number of consular issues”, the British readout said without giving details. Sunak also accepted Modi’s invitation for a bilateral visit at an early date.

Modi’s other significant bilateral meeting on the margins of the G20 Summit was with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan, a key partner of India in the Indo-Pacific region. The two leaders agreed to work together in maintaining and strengthening a free and open international order based on the rule of law, and in the field of advanced technology, including space, a Japanese readout said.

The Indian Prime Minister’s Office posted on X that Modi and Kishida are committed to bolster cooperation in key sectors such as connectivity and commerce.

During the meeting that lasted about 20 minutes, Kishida called for cooperation in improving India’s investment environment to realise the target of 5-trillion yen in public and private investment and financing from Japan by 2027.

Both leaders welcomed the provision of a 400-billion yen loan for the flagship high-speed rail project. They welcomed various initiatives for the “Japan-India tourism exchange year” and Kishida said coordination is underway to launch the Japanese Grant Aid for Human Resource Development Scholarship (JDS), whereby Indian officials who will play a leading role in bilateral ties can study in Japan.

Modi also held a bilateral meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and discussed ways to bolster their partnership in trade, investment, commerce, defence and security. “I had excellent meeting with PM @GiorgiaMeloni. Our talks covered sectors such as trade, commerce, defence, emerging technologies and more,” Modi posted on X.

This was Meloni’s second trip to India this year following a state visit in March, when bilateral ties were raised to the level of a strategic partnership. Modi appreciated Italy’s joining the Global Biofuel Alliance and the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor.

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