Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday hoped that the UK would accept India’s ‘early harvest’ proposition within the framework of a larger free trade agreement, which both the countries are working towards. Under an early harvest arrangement, two trading partners significantly reduce or eliminate customs duties on a limited number of goods with a view to promoting trade. In a free trade agreement (FTA), the partners do the same for maximum number of goods, besides relaxing norms to boost trade in services and investments. “I hope that the early harvest proposition of India, within the framework of a larger FTA, which we are working towards, will be accepted by the UK,” he said at CII’s Partnership Summit. Goyal said the early harvest proposition will help both the countries grab the low-hanging fruits.
“We are looking at possibilities of trade in goods and services and investments being a part of our enhanced trade partnership. We are looking at an option to see if it can be converted into an early harvest agreement,” he added. Asked whether there is any deadline to conclude the FTA talks, the minister said these negotiations are complex in nature and the country has to see its impacts over several years going forward. “…considering our past experiences, we have to really look at every FTA very carefully,” he said. The minister, however, added that both the sides are looking at fast-tracking the mechanism. “I would be very pleased if we can come up with an early harvest kind of an agreement within next year…My own sense is that FTA cannot be done faster than probably a couple of years if not three, because that has too many dimensions,” he added.
Speaking at the event, UK Secretary of State for International Trade Elizabeth Truss said both the sides are working on an advanced trade partnership as part of a roadmap that will lead to a future FTA. “On the subject of the FTA, we have made progress, but there is more to be done. We need to make sure that we identify how we can make it easier and more efficient to do business,” she added.