Badenoch races to overcome sticking points in Indian trade talks

By Tom Rees



Daily Telegraph


HOPES of a Uk-indian trade deal being signed by the end of the month could still be dashed over British access to public contracts and the ability to take data out of the country. Whitehall sources said Kemi Badenoch, the International Trade Secretary, may pursue multiple trade deals with the Indian government amid fears that any deal struck before the Diwali deadline will prove “thin”. Trade negotiators are scrambling to reach an agreement before the Oct 24 deadline set by Boris Johnson but insiders say stumbling blocks remain, meaning the deal could be light in content. A source close to the talks said data localisation rules that ensure foreign companies keep data in India and allowing UK firms to bid for Indian government contracts are two key sticking points to an ambitious deal with Narendra Modi’s government. “The stumbling blocks are absolutely to do with digital,” one insider said. “How ambitious and comprehensive this deal is is in some way a function of time.” Government sources say any agreement could be the first of a number of deals, rather than a final agreement, with a statement by the end of the month seen as a platform to build on. One of Britain’s long-term aims is to prise open India’s car market, allowing UK firms access to a huge market. The UK’S car industry has been planning to launch a charm offensive in India, with reports suggesting that car makers in the country have proposed a tariff reduction. But India is a very protectionist country and many nations have failed to negotiate major liberalisation of trade in past deals. An agreement would be a major coup for post-brexit Britain. Ms Badenoch has vowed to reach a deal with India before the deadline set by Mr Johnson but has admitted the UK will succeed in all of its key requests. Looser migration controls have been a major sticking point in talks as India wants a relaxation in rules for workers and students. Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, has opposed this, creating more tensions over post-brexit trade deals in Cabinet. A Government spokesman said: “India is projected to be the world’s third-largest economy by 2050. “We already have a strong relationship worth over £24 billion last year, and any improvements to our current trading arrangement could be game changing for UK businesses.”