World UK, India to start formal FTA talks within months
“It’s a tsunami”: The coronavirus is overwhelming India’s health care system
India set a pandemic record with almost 347,000 new cases in a day.The country reported almost 347,000 new cases over a 24-hour stretch, according to the New York Times, setting a new worldwide high for the third day in a row. Deaths also climbed, to a record 2,624 in a single day, and the rolling seven-day average of daily new cases in India is quickly approaching 300,000.
Britain and India will begin formal free trade deal talks later this year, the UK government said Tuesday, after they agreed an initial package to boost bilateral trade and investment.
With its massive population and growing economy, India has been high on London's list of trade deal targets since Britain left the European Union last year.
Under a post-Brexit "Global Britain" strategy, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government is pivoting its foreign policy priorities towards the Asia-Pacific region, signing trade deals with countries including Japan and Singapore.
Video of Oxygen Tanker Truck With Police Escort in India Shows Dire COVID Situation in Country
"More precious than gold," wrote the correspondent who posted the video as COVID fatalities continue to skyrocket.The video, posted to Twitter by correspondent Yogita Limaye on Sunday, shows a new common theme in India and portrays how highly valued medical oxygen is as hospitals across the country have experienced a widespread shortage with doctors desperately begging for more supplies, according to the Associated Press.
UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said India and Britain would start negotiations on an agreement "in the autumn", following the announcement of a preliminary "Enhanced Trade Partnership" deal.
"We want to get these negotiations completed as soon as possible," she told Sky News during a round of broadcast interviews touting the partnership package worth £1 billion ($1.4 billion, 1.2 billion euros).
"Of course, FTAs (Free Trade Agreements) take longer, this is the immediate gains that we can get for both countries, driving jobs here in Britain and in India," Truss added.
She said both countries were looking for "early wins" reducing barriers to trade from an FTA, noting Britain wants tariffs lowered or removed on various exports to India, from cars to whiskey.
Biden’s Whiplash Pandemic Diplomacy
The president’s carefully constructed pandemic-diplomacy plan fell apart as the COVID-19 crisis in India worsened. The Biden administration needs to learn from this misstep and demonstrate a more agile approach in managing the pandemic globally and in navigating the domestic politics of foreign policy. © Sarah Silbiger / Bloomberg / Nasir Kachroo / NurPhoto / Getty / The Atlantic President Joe Biden’s foreign-policy team supports India and is unambiguously internationalist in its instincts, especially on matters of public health.
The comments come ahead of virtual talks between Johnson and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi later on Tuesday.
That follows Johnson postponing for a second time an official visit to India last month, due to the worsening coronavirus situation there.
- 'Self-Reliant India' -
The partnership announcement with India includes lower trade barriers for some UK exports such as fruit and medical devices.
It also includes investment in Britain by vaccine maker the Serum Institute of India, which could eventually see more of its inoculations made in the UK.
Johnson's office said it expects the deal preceding FTA talks to create over 6,500 jobs.
But there are signs India may be reluctant to sign a more wide-ranging trade pact, as Modi pushes "Made in India" and "Self-Reliant India" agendas.
Last year he abruptly baulked at joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade agreement among 15 Asia-Pacific nations, because New Delhi feared its agricultural, dairy and services sectors would be disadvantaged.
Former US president Donald Trump disparaged India as the "tariff king" for its duties on imported goods, hobbling trade talks despite his friendly relations with Modi.
Talks are due to resume between India and the EU on a free-trade deal later this month, eight years after 16 rounds of talks broke up in deadlock.
Trade negotiations are also reportedly set to resume with Canada soon after a gap of four years.
Where will the next COVID hotspots be? .
Dr Khan explains how India’s troubles are spreading across the sub-continent, while pregnant women are dying in Brazil.India has seen a rapid and well-publicised increase in COVID cases. After a stepwise easing of restrictions across the country throughout 2020, India’s leader, President Narendra Modi, declared the country was in the “end game” of the pandemic. Soon after this bold statement, large religious and political gatherings were allowed to take place with little regard for social distancing and, inevitably, cases began to soar. On May 3, India hit the grim milestone of 20 million COVID cases, though the true number is thought to be much higher.