The negotiations for the proposed free trade agreement between India and the UK are at an advanced stage, and both sides are working to iron out differences on the remaining issues, a top government official said on Friday.
Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal said that negotiations on tough issues are underway.
"These negotiations are in the advance stage. These are going on, and we are ironing out the differences. We should wait till these negotiations are over because the 13th round is going on," he told reporters here.
These remarks assume significance as both sides are expected to conclude the talks this month and may sign the deal in the last week.
A majority of the 26 chapters are closed and for the remaining issues, high-level engagements at various levels are ongoing.
An official delegation from the UK is here for the negotiations. A team led by Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal was in London recently to give an impetus to the talks.
The UK team dealing with investment-related matters is already here, and the talks for the proposed bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with finance ministry officials are progressing at a faster pace.
The investment treaty is being negotiated as a separate agreement between India and the UK.
These investment treaties help in promoting and protecting investments in each other's country. The main point of contention involved in this pact is about the mechanism for the settlement of disputes.
The BITs help in promoting and protecting investments in each other's countries.
India has proposed to first utilise all local judicial remedies for settlement of disputes before initiating an international arbitration.
To provide duty concessions in the automobile sector, several rounds of consultations have been held with the domestic players in India.
According to an expert, UK-based automakers like JLR, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, and Aston Martin cater to the luxury segment, while Indian manufacturers are mostly in the mass segment and are mainly dominated by small and mid-size passenger cars and two-wheelers.
The Indian industry is demanding greater access for its skilled professionals from sectors like IT, and healthcare in the UK market, besides market access for several goods at nil customs duties.
On the other hand, the UK is seeking a significant cut in import duties on goods such as scotch whiskey, automobiles, lamb meat, chocolates and certain confectionary items.
Britain is also looking for more opportunities for UK services in Indian markets in segments like telecommunications, legal and financial services (banking and insurance).
Alcoholic beverage industry body Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) director-general Vinod Giri said that for Scotland Whiskey (bottled), India can consider reducing the import duties to 100 per cent immediately from 150 per cent and then 50 per cent in 10 years.
Similarly, for bulk imports, the duties can be cut down to 100 per cent immediately and then 50 per cent in 10 years as the bulk imports are treated as intermediate goods in the domestic market. The Indian alcoholic beverage market is worth USD 52 billion.
Replacing France, India became the top buyer of Scotch whisky by volume in 2022, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.
The bilateral trade between India and the UK increased to USD 20.36 billion in 2022-23 from USD 17.5 billion in 2021-22.