U.K.’s Johnson to Visit India in January as Trade Talks to Start
Boris Johnson, U.K. prime minister, inside number 10 Downing Street in London, U.K. (Photographer: Andy Rain/EPA/Bloomberg)

U.K.’s Johnson to Visit India in January as Trade Talks to Start

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will visit India in January to try to boost ties, with talks on a free-trade agreement due to start next year.

The British government has made the expansion of global trading opportunities a priority after Brexit, and is pursuing trade deals with countries including the U.S., New Zealand and Australia. The Indo-Pacific region is also high on the U.K.’s agenda, and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab held talks with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in New Delhi on Tuesday.

“We want to deepen our economic partnership,” Raab told reporters. “Working toward an enhanced trade partnership next year, which itself will be, we hope, a stepping stone toward a future free-trade agreement.”

India is the U.K.’s 17th-largest trading partner and total trade between the two countries was worth $16.5 billion in 2019, according to Bloomberg data.

It will be Johnson’s first major bilateral trip since becoming leader, his office said in an emailed statement. The U.K. has also invited India, alongside South Korea and Australia, to join next year’s G-7 summit as a guest country.

‘Indispensable Partner’

“India is an increasingly indispensable partner for the U.K. as we work to boost jobs and growth, confront shared threats to our security and protect our planet,” Johnson said in the statement.

India has sought to forge strong ties with the U.K., as well as France, as it seeks a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council amid months-long border tensions with China. New Delhi is also seeking more investment to shore up its Covid-hit economy.

Jaishankar said both sides’ trade ministers are in talks and that India would work with the U.K. on a range of issues, including the United Nations.

“The problem we have today about narrow representation at the leadership levels of the UN is in many ways a challenge to its credibility and its effectiveness,” Jaishankar said at Carnegie India’s technology summit on Monday, referring to the UN Security Council, whose five permanent members -- Britain, France, China, Russia and the U.S. -- have veto powers. India has joined nations including Japan and Germany in calling for UNSC reforms.

Johnson’s office said tackling climate change will be one of the focuses of his India visit, ahead of Britain hosting the UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow next year. Johnson will also be the guest of honor at the annual parade in New Delhi to celebrate India’s Republic Day on Jan. 26.

In preparation for the end of the Brexit transition period on Dec. 31, the U.K. has also signed deals with the likes of Canada and Japan, preserving the benefits of trade agreements it had as a member of the EU.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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