Ranil Jayawardena is the Conservative MP for North East Hampshire and has been an MP continuously since 7 May 2015. He currently holds the Government post of Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade).
India is one of the United Kingdom’s most important friends and allies. India’s economy is now nine times larger than it was in 1990, making it the fifth-largest economy in the world. India is truly an economic powerhouse that will help define the 21st Century, and I was glad to see the strength of the Anglo-Indian relationship on full display for all to see as part of the recent India Global Week.
Of course, Britain and India already have a strong bond. Both our countries benefit from unique people to people links. In Britain, we have an Indian diaspora of over 1½ million people, helping create prosperity in the UK and here in India.
India is also already a key trading partner for the United Kingdom, and the work we’ve done together during the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the real depth and strength of our trade and investment relationship.
We have worked closely to keep vital supply chains open and flowing including, for example, for Personal Protective Equipment. We are thankful to the Indian Government for approving the export of 2.8 million packets of paracetamol and 11 million facemasks to the United Kingdom. I know I speak for so many across Britain when I say we are deeply grateful for the support and friendship that India has shown us during this challenging time.
Elsewhere, we already have strong economic ties in areas like technology, business services and pharmaceuticals. Overall trade between our countries hit £24 billion in 2019, up by almost 10 percent in just one year. The United Kingdom and India also have a strong investment relationship, with British and Indian investments supporting over half a million jobs in each other’s economies. Britain is the second fastest-growing G20 investor in India over the last 10 years, investing over £22 billion and helping create more than 422,000 jobs. India has also recently risen up the ranks to become the second-largest investor in the British economy last year. Even before coronavirus, Britain was India’s second-largest research partner. But there is the potential to do so much more.
UK International Trade Minister Ranil Jayawardena
Just last week, I spoke again with India’s Minister for Commerce, Hardeep Singh Puri, about how we can deliver upon our shared ambition to be forces for good in the world through doubling down on bilateral trade.
In realising the benefits of leaving the EU, we want to work with like-minded partners to champion free trade and fight protectionism. We want to go further in building our relationship with India, knocking down existing barriers to trade in both countries, creating jobs and opportunities for growth by drawing on the strengths of our economies.
This week, we held the 14th meeting of the United Kingdom-India Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) to discuss ways to expand and deepen our trading relationship, although we had to do it virtually. While we would have hoped to meet in-person, I am glad we were able to make further progress, even during a pandemic.
As part of these discussions, we agreed to establish an Enhanced Trade Partnership as the first step on a wider roadmap towards a deeper trade relationship. Subject to progress, this could lead to a future Free Trade Agreement, removing some of the non-tariff barriers that serve as obstacles to our exports reaching their full potential along the way. The ‘UK Global Tariff’ schedule that will come into force on January 1 next year will serve as a building block towards an increasingly open trade partnership. Assuming all tariffs are levied, the ‘UK Global Tariff’ could boost trade flows by reducing tariffs on Indian exports by up to £40m per year.
So as well as deepening our overall trade partnership, I want to help Indian consumers secure better access to British products here and now. Whether that’s providing access to Welsh farmers exporting their high-quality Lamb to India, or helping Indian farmers to increase crop yields in a sustainable way through enabling British exports of polyhalite—a multi-nutrient fertiliser mined in Yorkshire—much has been done.
But there is more still to do. Britain and India have agreed to work towards removing additional barriers, including to work together to ensure both countries maximise the potential of their digital economies including on data regulation and interoperability. And, as we look ahead to hosting the UN climate change conference (COP26) in November next year, there is also an opportunity to strengthen our collaboration as a global force for good on climate and green recovery.
There is no better moment than now to celebrate our relationship and explore the real potential of what we can achieve together in the future. In times of economic difficulty, it is more important than ever for countries to remain open to trade. I’m proud of the progress we have made so far with India and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next for our trading relationship. While it is great to stay in touch virtually, I hope that I will be able to make the journey to meet my Indian counterparts in-person—deepening our ties and more fully introducing them to all the United Kingdom has to offer—as soon as we have defeated our common enemy, coronavirus, together.