The President of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said business and the Government needed to work together if the vital trading relationship between India and the UK is to receive a boost.
Speaking at the CBI’s India Banquet, an annual event bringing together senior figures from across the Indian and British business and political community, the leader of Britain’s largest business group told guests that both countries should work hard to seize the opportunities of a positive Brexit negotiation.
Paul Drechsler CBE also launched the CBI’s Trade 2030 campaign at the Banquet, at which the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Mr. Y.K. Sinha, and the Deputy Mayor of London for Business, Rajesh Agrawal, delivered addresses.
On trade between the United Kingdom and India, Paul Drechsler CBE, CBI president, said: “The UK is now the second largest G20 investor in India, and India is the third biggest investor here. But when it comes to trade, the picture looks less rosy than last year, as India’s international trade expanded, we’ve fallen to 12th place.
“We can all agree that’s not good enough. To reverse this trend and get bilateral trade back to where it should be we need government and business to work together, both in the UK and in India. We need a chorus of voices – businesses, regions, trade unions, consumer groups and other stakeholders coming together, and setting the agenda and objectives for the future of UK trade.
“Tonight, the CBI launched our own Trade 2030 campaign. Under that banner, we’ll work with our members and experts in the field of international trade, helping to guide the thinking over the months and years ahead.
“So, let me speak directly to our friends from the Governments of India and the United Kingdom here tonight: Business is here to help. And the CBI stands ready to support you in any way we can.
“Because when it comes down to it, trade isn’t about regulations and tariffs. It’s about medicines that save lives. It’s about digital banking. It’s about efficient solar panels.
“And if India and the UK can find ways to expand trade, then we’ll be expanding the choices – even the life chances – of over one billion people in India and in the UK.”
On Brexit, Drechsler said: “The General Election made many things less clear. But one thing was very clear indeed: it’s time to reassess how we leave the EU. The British people [would] much prefer a positive negotiation strategy.
“What does that mean? It means no tariff or non-tariff barriers. It means regulatory equivalence. It means access to skills and labour. And it means opening up business opportunities around the world.”
On innovation, Drechsler said: “For India, FinTech can increase financial inclusion, support Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Digital India’ programme, and help reduce people’s reliance on physical cash.
“And for the UK, the world capital of mature and start-up FinTech firms, there’s a great chance to share expertise and advice with one of the world’s most exciting, fast-growing technology hubs. Building the sort of links that will become even more important post-Brexit.”