India and the UK are natural trade and investment partners and are poised for an elevated strategic partnership involving the movement of people, trade, defence and security, healthcare and climate change. This was stated by Mr. Piyush Goyal, Minister for Commerce & Industry and Railways, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Government of India, at a session on “ Post Brexit UK and India” during the Partnership Summit 2020 of the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India.

The Minister noted that the post-Brexit discussion has come at a time when there is already a visible intensification of bilateral relations between the two countries. The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s acceptance of India’s invitation to be the Chief Guest at the 2021 Indian Republic Day celebrations, his first State Visit to India, is also a good augury for bilateral ties.

H.E. Elizabeth Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, UK lauded the joint collaboration between the two countries in critical areas such as joint research for the development of the COVID vaccine, use of  robotics in operation theatres in India, among others.

Both countries are the founding members of the Global Partnership on artificial intelligence (AI)  and are pushing the frontiers to discover opportunities in areas such as driver-less cars and virtual reality; “embracing innovation will be vital as two forward-leaning nations to unleash our full economic potential”, she said.

Secretary Truss also mentioned about the  major  headway been made during  the  Joint Economic and Trade Committee meetings in 2019, for example, in the removal of market access barriers on items such as Welsh lamb in India, as well as in areas like food and drinks, pharmaceuticals, data and digital and advanced manufacturing. Furthermore, the UK is repositioning itself as a global services and tech hub, and India with its tech unicorns and fintech success will serve as an ideal partner in this endeavour, she added.

Lord Jitesh Gadhia, Member of Parliament, UK, listed three factors namely Brexit, post-COVID economic recovery and climate change as the centripetal forces to guide mutual partnership. The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in the UK, new government in the US, reinvigoration of the G7 and the India presidency of the G20 group in 2022 will all place India and the UK at the centre of global diplomacy next year, he said.

In the near-term, opportunities for India, post Brexit, would include the removal of tariffs imposed by the EU on sectors like textiles, regaining full control on immigration and provision of  a level playing field for attracting talent through  a mutual recognition of skills and certifications. Collaboration in the financial sector would be through masala bonds and green growth equity funds provided to India, he added.

Lord Karan Bilimoria, Member of Parliament & President, Confederation of British Industry (CBI), mentioned a recent CBI study that reported that UK companies have continued to invest millions into the Indian economy during the lockdown month of April-July. While intrinsically linking sustainability to future growth and livelihood, Mr Billimoria spoke of leveraging India’s expertise in solar power and the UK’s leadership in wind energy –to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Baroness Sandip Verma, Member of Parliament, UK and Member, European Union Parliamentary Committee & Chair, Parliamentary EU Goods Sub Committee, UK emphasized that the two nations should prioritize their engagement in harnessing the agile nature and talent of their respective SME sectors.

Mr. Richard Heald, Group Chair, UKIBC, UK said that the immediate focus should be on an enhanced trade partnership in sectors like food and drink, IT, life sciences, chemicals, and services, as well as signing a free trade agreement between the two countries. There are already 500 British companies that source, assemble, and manufacture directly in India and create employment for 6,00,000 Indians, he added. This relationship has been sustained through improved Ease of Doing Business rankings, reforms in both countries, and a rules-based trade environment guided by the WTO.

Concluding the session, Mr. Sanjiv Bajaj, Vice President, Confederation of Indian Industry & Chairman and Managing Director, Bajaj Finserv Ltd., observed that significant progress has been made in India in simplifying high-level bureaucratic procedures, instituting market reforms and implementing effective and transparent processes to attract foreign investment. This has enhanced opportunity for UK investors, particularly in defence, automotive, and pharmaceutical industries. Indian manufacturers are also keen for the UK to re-shore to India and consider ‘Made in India’ products and components.