British minister: UK-India trade deal should have strong investment protections


London (Reuters) – Britain’s investment minister said on Tuesday he would like to see strong investment protections in any future trade deal with India, and that the two countries could work more closely together on financial services even without a trade pact.

Free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations between Britain and India were launched in January last year, with then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson setting the ambitious deadline to conclude negotiations by Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, in October 2022.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has stressed that he won’t sacrifice quality for speed in trade talks.

Investment minister Dominic Johnson did not comment on timelines for an FTA but said there was “a gigantic opportunity for us, in terms of being a funnel for investment into India, and benefiting from Indian investment back into the UK”.

“I’m keen to promote the concept of strong investment protection agreements that allow UK investors to invest in India with a sense of security, stability and predictability, and I might say vice versa,” he said in an interview.

He added that India would gain from liberalising its financial services to resemble more closely the British system, and that British expertise could help that happen, outside the terms of any future FTA.

“The more India can do to formalise its economy and to harmonise its trade and tax systems, and licensing regimes across India, the better,” he said.

One major Indian investor in Britain is Tata Motors, the owner of carmaker Jaguar Land Rover, which is expected to make a decision on the location of a new factory to make batteries for electric vehicles soon.

Johnson declined to comment on specific businesses, but added that Britain wanted to make EVs domestically and that the accompanying supply chain was strong.

“Having a world class automotive EV industry is absolutely at the core of the government’s long term strategy,” he said.

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