A free trade agreement would create huge opportunities for British services and secure high-quality jobs in industries key for our future
Few countries have demonstrated the power of free trade in the fight against coronavirus more than the United Kingdom and India. As the pharmacy of the world, India has kept its borders open to supply healthcare systems around the world, including our NHS, with vital medicines and PPE.
And as I write, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, conceived by and developed in the UK, is being manufactured around the world including in India’s Serum Institute to be distributed – at cost – to the planet.
Keeping trade flowing ensures critical supplies such as vaccines get to those who need them. As India’s coronavirus crisis has reached an acute level, I have been speaking with my friend Minister Piyush Goyal regularly about what we can do to help.
The medical support provided the UK Government has been reinforced by a huge commitment from British businesses. That includes Virgin Atlantic whose cargo space, usually used to transport British goods to be sold on Indian shelves, is currently being repurposed to take hundreds of boxes of oxygen concentrators to India’s hospitals. This is a potent symbol of the strength of the UK-India trading relationship.
Now, the Prime Minister writes the next chapter of our economic relationship with India by agreeing our new enhanced trade partnership. This, alongside the comprehensive free trade agreement we and India have confirmed our intent to negotiate, will take our trade to new heights.
India is the largest country the UK has explored a trade deal with. The 1.4 billion people living in the world’s biggest democracy outnumber the European Union and the United States combined. India is one of the world’s largest economies, and the speed with which it is growing means that this economic powerhouse will only go from strength to strength.
Deepening trade with India will fuel our ongoing recovery by securing high-quality jobs in the industries key for our future. That is how we will fulfil our era-defining ambition to more than double the value of our trading relationship, worth around £23 billion a year, by 2030.
A free trade agreement would create huge opportunities for world-leading British services and has vast potential to benefit businesses across the UK, from Scotch whisky distillers to Midlands carmakers and Belfast’s fintech innovators. It would give British exporters an unprecedented edge in the Indian market by cutting or removing tariffs such as those of 150 per cent on our whisky and up to 125 per cent on our cars.
But this is not just about positioning ourselves for long-term success. We have secured immediate benefits through our enhanced trade partnership for the best of British industry, from food and drink to life sciences.
Brilliant British apples will now be sold in India for the first time. India will remove additional import checks on our medical devices. We will also work to break down barriers to make it easier for our lawyers to do business in India.
Such opportunities will help us make our vision for Global Britain a reality, with British businesses growing by exporting to the huge Indian market and securing jobs in every region and nation of the UK.
I am proud to see British and Indian businesses seizing this moment with a flurry of new trade and investment deals, worth over £1 billion. They promise to create more than 6,500 jobs up and down the country, with Indian tech giants like Infosys investing in local communities across the UK and cutting-edge British firms such as CMR Surgical exporting to India.
We know that India is full of consumers who crave British goods and services. A recent survey by Barclays found that a product flying the Union Jack was more likely to be snapped up in India than anywhere else.
We are also showing our strength as a services powerhouse, whether it is with BT pioneering next generation technology and AI at its research centre in Bengaluru or Arup’s experts redeveloping New Delhi Railway station.
Many British businesses are thriving in India by exporting everything from Yorkshire Tea and Brompton bicycles to classic British-made cars like Aston Martin. And I am glad to see more British businesses turning to India for opportunity.
We are driving forward our exports-led and investment-led recovery by embracing new opportunities overseas. That is why I want more British businesses to export. It means Indian consumers can enjoy more high-quality British goods and services, while our businesses make more money to invest in their staff and future growth. This comes as dynamic Indian employers help level up the country by creating more jobs up and down the UK. Put simply, trade equals jobs.
Today, the UK and India are sending a powerful signal that the best way forward for us all lies in free and fair trade. What we are doing now will help our countries to weather the pandemic and emerge stronger. Together, we will build back better and herald a new era rich in jobs, opportunity and prosperity for our people.