Sunak, Modi discuss ways to boost trade

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday said he was committed to a trade deal with India.

He also said he was confident Britain and the United States could deepen their economic relationship but he had not spoken specifically about a trade deal with US President Joe Biden, news agency Reuters reported.

Mr Sunak was speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Bali, as Indonesia handed over the G20 presidency to India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed it a matter of pride for every Indian citizen.

"We remain committed to a trade deal with India, but we need to get these things right. There is excitement about India taking over the G20 presidency," Reuters quoted Mr Sunak as saying.

Later, Mr Modi tweeted: "Was great to meet PM @RishiSunak in Bali. India attaches great importance to robust India-UK ties.

"We discussed ways to increase commercial linkages, raise the scope of security cooperation in context of India's defence reforms and make people-to-people ties even stronger."

Both India and Britain launched negotiations for the free-trade agreement (FTA) in January with an aim to conclude talks by Oct 24, but the deadline was missed due to a political crisis in the UK, reported Live Mint.

The bilateral trade between India and Britain increased to US$17.5 billion ($24 billion) in 2021-22 compared to US$13.2 billion in 2020-21.

India's exports stood at US$10.5 billion and imports US$7 billion in 2021-22.

If the trade deal is agreed on, it will be the first deal of its kind India has made with a European country. It will build on the UK-India trading relationship - already worth £24 billion ($39 billion) - and allow the UK to seize the opportunities presented by India's growing economy.

In parallel to the mobility partnership with India, the British government said it was also strengthening its ability to remove immigration offenders.

Hours after their meeting, Mr Sunak gave the go-ahead for 3,000 visas for young professionals from India to work in the UK each year.

The British government said India was the first visa-national country to benefit from such a scheme, highlighting the strength of the UK-India Migration and Mobility Partnership agreed on last year.

"Today, the UK-India Young Professionals Scheme was confirmed, offering 3,000 places to 18-30-year-old, degree-educated Indian nationals to come to the UK to live and work for up to two years," the UK Prime Minister's Office (PMO) tweeted.

The scheme will be reciprocal.

"The launch of the scheme is a significant moment both for our bilateral relationship with India and the UK's wider commitment to forging stronger links with the Indo-Pacific region to strengthen both our economies," the UK PMO said in a statement, adding that the UK had more links with India than almost any country in the Indo-Pacific region.

Nearly a quarter of all international students in the UK are from India and Indian investment into the UK supports 95,000 jobs across the UK.

Reuters, AFP

"We remain committed to a trade deal with India, but we need to get these things right. There is excitement about India taking over the G20 presidency."

- British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

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