Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday (local time) while speaking at the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) on Free Trade Agreements in Washington said that FTAs are being signed in a much “faster” way nowadays and also informed that the India-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations are “going on as we speak.” This confirmation comes at a time when a recent report suggested that the FTA talks between the two countries are suspended over the UK’s failure to denounce vandalism by Khalistani supporters outside the Indian High Commission in London last month.
“Free Trade Agreements are being signed in a much faster way nowadays. We’ve just concluded one with Australia. Earlier we concluded with UAE, Mauritius and with ASEAN. We have extended quota-free and tariff-free regime to Least Developed Countries,” the Finance Minister said.
Speaking on India’s wish to pursue trade with multilateral groups, she said, “I think India has shown very clearly its initiative is working out well in pursuing with countries and agreeing to have FTA with them. We’ve had agreements with ASEAN, free trade agreements both in goods and services with ASEAN, we have had with Korea, with Japan. So free trade agreements have bilaterally or with multilateral groups been the route which India has had till before 2014 and now between 2019 and today, we’ve had at least three major agreements signed. So, we shall proceed in that route, with the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Canada. All three are happening now as we speak, the negotiations are going on. So we shall go in those preferential routes.”
Earlier today India dismissed as “baseless” reports in British media stating that it had halted talks for a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom over the attack on the Indian high commission in London last month, government sources said on Monday.
London-based newspaper The Times in its April 10 edition citing senior British government sources reported that the Indian government has “disengaged” from trade talks and made it clear that there would be no progress “without a public condemnation of the Khalistan movement.”
The India-UK Free Trade Agreement talks were launched on June 17, 2022.
Sitharaman further urged World Trade Organisation (WTO) to bring transparency in terms of moratorium.
“WTO should be more open about issues. WTO has to be progressive and fair to all members. It has to give voice to all and not just hear but also heed. There’s a continuation of a moratorium since 1998 on electronic transmissions despite evolution to digital age. Shouldn’t there be a change in WTO policy in terms of moratorium? We don’t have to reverse benefits of globalisation but make it more transparent,” she added.
Sitharaman said that India is poised for a more important role in the global value chains.
“Given the shocks witnessed due to supply chain disruptions, MNCs have become prudent & are diversifying. India is attractive because of its skilled youth and large domestic market,” she added.
The Finance Minister further stated that India’s growth is sustainable as it attempts to grow its manufacturing sector and not import products that it manufactures.
“Catering to the domestic markets became attractive due to the Phased Manufacturing Programme (PMP),” she said.
“India needs to have resilient value chains come to India for which we came up with Production Linked Incentives (PLI)schemes so that those supply chains can thrive in domestic as well as int’l markets. We’ve incentivised production so that goods produced in India are consumed in India as well as exported to other countries,” she added.
PLI Scheme has helped increase India’s mobile manufacturing capacity, which was almost nil in 2014 and today, India is the second largest manufacturer of smartphones. PLI schemes for 13 sunrise sectors are bringing global value chains into India.
Sitharaman also interacted with business leaders and investors. “Union Finance Minister Smt. @nsitharaman interacts during a roundtable meeting on the “Investment opportunities for the long term: India on the Rise” with business leaders and investors, co-hosted by @FollowCII and @USIBC, in @USChamber, Washington DC, today,” tweeted Ministry of Finance.
Indian Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu accompanied Sitharaman an Executive Roundtable hosted by US-India Business Council (USIBC)
“India on the Rise! Accompanied Finance Minister @nsitharaman for an Executive Roundtable hosted by @USIBC & @FollowCII with a number of leading companies across key sectors. Tremendous energy in the India US economic partnership!” tweeted Sandhu.