Even as the near-term global trade outlook remains gloomy, India is set to continue its efforts to negotiate with key trade partners for potential free trade agreements (FTA). Two major negotiations are scheduled for next month -- the fourth round of India-EU FTA negotiations from March 13-17, 2023, and the eighth round of India-UK FTA negotiations, from March 20-24.
India-EU FTA negotiations, formally re-launched on June 17, 2022, cover 23 policy areas. The forthcoming round of discussion will see both sides attempt to discuss and finalise modalities for the exchange of offers in goods and services. India’s Commerce Secretary and Director General (Trade) of the European Union had taken stock of the progress achieved in the initial three rounds and outlined the way forward on January 24, 2023. The next Commerce Secretary-DG (Trade) EU is planned for August.
The India-UK FTA negotiations cover 26 policy areas. The negotiators have closed discussions on 13 of them. While the trade ministers of both countries met on December 13, 2022, and January 27, 2023, to take stock of progress, the last round of negotiations happened after that – from 6-10 February 2023. As the 8th round of negotiations is set to begin, both trade partners are looking forward to an early, fair and equitable deal based on the principle of reciprocity.
India has also been actively engaged in negotiating other FTA proposals during February 2023 too.
For instance, India carried out the sixth round of negotiations for an interim, early harvest FTA with Canada between January 23-27 and February 3-8 2023 in New Delhi. The areas of discussion included goods (tariff), Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), technical barriers to trade, rules of origin, customs and trade facilitation, trade remedies, environment, labour, trade in services, telecom, financial services, professional services, temporary entry, dispute settlement, etc. Apart from traditional areas, the early deal is also expected to cover areas like SMEs, trade and gender. The India-Canada early harvest deal negotiations started in March 2022.
New Delhi also hosted a special round of discussion of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) deal in New Delhi on February 8-11, 2023. The discussions covered topics like supply chains, clean energy and a fair economy. It saw the participation of about 300 officials from India, the US, Australia, Brunei, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Phillippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
IPEF aims at the creation of more conducive environments for enhancing trade and investment linkages, development of resilient supply chains, and acceleration of sustainable development among partner countries.