The UK on Wednesday made a strong pitch for removal of trade barriers while expressing its keenness to have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India as it prepares to leave the European Union. Addressing India’s flagship geo-political initiative “Raisina Dialogue”, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also talked about other areas of strategic importance like security and defence where the two countries were cooperating. In a speech, laced with humour and wit, Johnson said what the UK and India can manage to achieve together, they may not be able to pull-off individually while stressing for a need to “turbo-charge” India-UK trade ties. Asserting that free trade has proved to be “single greatest engine of human progress”, he said free trade and economic penetration are mutually beneficial and asked professionals of both countries to “step up to the plate”. Break barriers, create jobs, let’s work together, the visiting leader said while recalling British Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to India in November when the two countries signed agreements pertaining to ease of doing business.
The UK is among India’s major trading partners and during the year 2014-15, UK ranked 18th in the list of India’s top 25 trading partners. As per data published by Department of Commerce, two-way merchandise trade during 2014-15 was USD 14.33 billion, marking a decrease of 9.39 per cent as compared to 2013-14. Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of India partnership with the world including its neighbours, Johnson said imagine how wonderful it would be for India and Pakistan to break down the barriers of mistrust and make the best of economic opportunities.
He also stressed the need for “trust, freedom of navigation in the sea lanes and rule-based international order”, saying without them the world will find reverting to the uncertainties of 1930. In this context, he also talked about recent Hague tribunal’s verdict on South China Sea and said the UK believes that the order is binding while asserting that his country opposes the militarisation of South China Sea.
He also said India can be great source of stability in this region and a key State of a great natural arc created by the Indian Pacific. Johnson will be travelling to Kolkata where he will meet representatives of the cricket authority and attend a debate competition featuring teams from Cambridge University and the London School of Economics.