The U.K. began formal preparation for a free-trade agreement with India, a post-Brexit target for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he seeks to prove the benefit of leaving the European Union.
Britain will do a 14-week consultation on the potential accord with the world’s largest democracy with the aim of starting negotiations in the fall, the Department for International Trade said in a statement. The U.K. and India want to double trade between their two countries by 2030, up from about 23 billion pounds ($33 billion) in 2019.
Johnson’s government wants to strengthen economic alliances around the world following the EU divorce, which has had a negative impact on trade and soured relations with the U.K.’s largest export market. In April, Johnson and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged a “quantum leap” in the relationship, seeking better cooperation on issues such as climate change and shared security threats.
A deal with India is one of the high-priority trade deals Johnson is hoping to secure, along with Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Yet the total volume of trade at stake in a U.K.-India agreement is dwarfed by Britain’s commerce with the EU. In 2019, trade with India was equivalent to about 3% of the U.K.’s total trade with the EU.
The U.K. government said it hopes to remove tariffs such as a 150% levy on whisky and 125% duty on British-made cars in a deal with India, as well as making it easier for British services companies to operate there.
“We want an agreement that pushes new frontiers in industries of the future,” Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said.
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