Boris Johnson will host bilateral talks with the Prime Minister of India on Tuesday, announcing the potential of up to £ 1 billion in new trade and investment in a virtual meeting after a planned visit to the country was delayed to two times due to the Covid crisis.
The British Prime Minister was due to meet Narendra Modi in Delhi last week, but the visit was canceled due to the severity of the pandemic in that country. India recorded 3,689 deaths on Sunday, its highest daily death toll yet, and hospitals are scrambling to find oxygen to treat patients. Britain sent £ 6million worth of medical supplies over the past week.
Johnson and Modi will agree on a number of key investments and the path to a new free trade deal at Tuesday’s meeting, which Downing Street says would create 6,500 UK jobs and contain more than £ 533million sterling of new Indian investments in the UK, in sectors such as health and technology. No timetable has been given for job creation or total investment.
Among the new deals announced were 1,000 jobs at tech company Infosys, owned by the stepfather of Rishi Sunak, one of India’s most successful entrepreneurs, whose daughter Akshata Murty married Sunak in 2009.
The investment includes £ 240million by the Serum Institute of India in its vaccine business and a new sales office, which is expected to generate new business worth more than $ 1 billion. A trial the institute has started in the UK includes a single-dose nasal coronavirus vaccine, in partnership with Codagenix INC.
The agreement between Johnson and Modi includes an enhanced trade partnership, which is not as deep and comprehensive as free trade agreements with some other countries such as the EU and Japan. It will lower non-tariff barriers on fruits and medical devices, in the hope that this will allow UK companies to export more of their products to India.
The deal includes the lifting of restrictions to allow UK fruit growers to export UK apples, pears and quinces to India for the first time – although fruit exports represent a relatively minor share of the UK economy, at just £ 1.3bn in 2020 overall. world, out of a total of £ 310.1 billion.
Total UK trade, goods and services, exports and imports were close to £ 1.2bn last year, a relatively small increase of £ 1bn in practice. The deal is also modest compared to UK-EU trade: in 2019, UK exports to the EU were worth £ 294 billion.
The intention is to lay the foundations for a more comprehensive agreement, which may be highly dependent on further cooperation on visas and migration policy. The Home Office is expected to announce more on Tuesday about a deal that could allow thousands more Indian students to enroll in UK universities in return for India accepting soft deportations for those who live in UK visa free.
The path to a free trade agreement will indicate ambition to double the value of UK-India trade again by 2030. No.10 said the market would be bigger than the EU and US combined – by far the largest market that the UK is committed to negotiating a trade deal with to date.
Ahead of the meeting, Johnson said: “Like all aspects of UK-India relations, the economic ties between our countries make our people stronger and more secure. Each of the more than 6,500 jobs we announced today will help families and communities recover from the coronavirus and boost the UK and Indian economies.