Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Student visas are not on the FTA agenda, according to the UK Trade Secretary

Student visa not on FTA agenda: UK trade secretary


 In an effort to keep talks for a bilateral trade agreement on track, UK secretary of state for international trade Kemi Badenoch has spent the past two days in India meeting with her Indian counterpart Piyush Goyal. The UK minister discusses the demands for open professional services, lowering the scotch import duty, and flexibility regarding intellectual property rights (IPRs) in an exclusive interview while maintaining India's needs must be honored. Excerpts:


Did you make any progress during your meeting with Mr. Goyal? How was it?

It was extremely beneficial. Things had settled down between the elections in Gujarat and the change of our PM over the summer in the context of a refresh to the free trade agreement (FTA). This is not a deal that we are no longer doing, as many people believed. Although we have completed the majority of what needs to be done, we have made a lot of progress; however, this is the challenging section; the most challenging topics are typically discussed in the final few sections. In order to avoid a situation in which Mr. Goyal and I agree but the negotiating teams disagree, it was helpful to have Mr. Goyal and I in the same room as both teams so they could hear what we agreed and disagreed on. Both of us have told them to move slowly.


What are the most important areas of UK interest? Are financial and legal services included?

Both parties want a very ambitious agreement, but it must be balanced. There are numerous inquiries when we enter. There will have to be concessions made at some point. It applies to all professional services. The economy of the UK is already fairly liberal. We support a trading system based on rules and free trade. India is the world's largest democracy and shares a lot of our understanding of our rules and legal system. Additionally, there are a few areas in which it is preferable to stay out of the FTA for cultural, political, or legal reasons.


What about things like automobiles or whisky, which are subject to high tariffs in India?

You would have heard our whisky producers discuss that. I am putting in a lot of effort to negotiate a deal that benefits them. However, there is a lot more to the United Kingdom than just whisky. India requires a lot more from us. There are numerous areas in which we can collaborate, including clean energy, pharmaceuticals, and technology. We are investigating how it will enhance people's quality of life in India and the UK.


Is the UK willing to accept that India has sensitivities regarding agriculture and some other products, as is Australia?

That is a requirement on both sides. Despite the fact that the UK economy is very different from Australia's, there will always be concerns. Like Mr. Goyal, I will have farmers in the UK who want me to protect them. What we want to ensure is that individuals are not excessively stressed over issues that won't happen. When a change is coming, people are worried about what it will be like, and our goal is to create an FTA that improves everyone's situation.



Visas for students and business travelers are particularly interesting for India. The United Kingdom has some concerns. How can those positions be reconciled?

They must be examined separately. The trade deal looks at mobility, which is different from migration. We welcome a lot of great Indian businesspeople to the UK. Similar to the students, they are extremely inventive and intelligent. The trade agreement is really about making the economy and businesses grow. Therefore, I would not consider student visas in an FTA. We are still doing it, but the FTA's text is something that has stood the test of time, as India has also stated. It must be maintainable. India has the most understudy visas that the UK issues, however a FTA is on exchange and we need to zero in on exchange matters, as opposed to acquiring different things that are not well defined for it.



Indian officials and health activists are concerned about a few things, like IPRs. Is IPR flexibility something the UK considers essential?

There are other areas of intellectual property that we are examining; this may be challenging because the UK is a developed nation that can afford much more than India can in terms of size and per capita income. An FTA that can deal with those two different scenarios is needed. Despite the fact that it will probably limit our capabilities, there are numerous positive aspects.


Do you have a specific timetable for FTA?

We want to zero in on the nature of the arrangement, not speed. We, Mr. Goyal and I, have gotten the negotiators to move quickly, and I hope to see him in the beginning of next year, ideally in London. I don't have a cutoff time at the top of the priority list.

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