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'Nobody asks why isn't UK quickly signing up?', Jaishankar over delay in signing India-UK FTA

"I hear this naysayers' narrative coming back -- why isn't India quickly signing up (the FTA) with the UK? Nobody says why isn't the UK quickly signing up with India?" EAM Jaishankar said taking strong objection to those criticising India for delays in firming up the free trade agreement.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 New Delhi Updated on: December 19, 2023 10:32 IST
EAM Dr S Jaishankar while addressing a book launch event.
Image Source : @DRSJAISHANKAR/X EAM Dr S Jaishankar while addressing a book launch event.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has taken strong objection to those criticising New Delhi for delays in firming up the proposed free trade agreement with the UK and said careful scrutiny is required as such pacts could impact the livelihoods of people. "I hear this naysayers' narrative coming back -- why isn't India quickly signing up (the FTA) with the UK? Nobody says why isn't the UK quickly signing up with India? So somewhere, it is like we have to make that accommodation," he said during a book launch event on Monday.

It is worth mentioning India and the UK have been holding negotiations to firm up an ambitious FTA.

The two sides are learnt to have finalised over 20 out of 26 chapters in the FTA and are now looking at sealing it by bridging differences on certain contentious issues including mobility of people and import duty concessions on certain items.

Diwali deadline missed

In April last year, the two sides had set a Diwali deadline for concluding the free trade agreement but the deal could not be finalised in view of differences over certain issues as well as political developments in the UK.

"We are right now in the middle of some fairly serious negotiations with some fairly serious partners... I hear this naysayer narrative coming back, why isn't India quickly signing up with the UK? Nobody says why isn't the UK quickly signing up with India. So somewhere, it is like we have to make that accommodation.

We are the people who somewhere are holding back, and we should speed it up because every FTA and every open step is an achievement in itself," Jaishankar said.

FTA decision could impact millions of people: EAM

In his address, the external affairs minister said, "FTAs have a use" but at the same time underlined the need for careful scrutiny of various provisions. Jaishankar said he would like to "very judiciously consider the merits and the risks of an FTA" as any decision for a country like India could impact millions of people and it could be a matter of their livelihoods.

Jaishankar also took a potshot at the tendency of cherry-picking by some of the major powers. Cherry-picking what should be a level playing field, what should not, what should be open what should not -- at the end of the day it is all about freezing leads which countries have acquired, he said.

"Those who have acquired dominance, especially economic dominance will through the process of negotiations, through shaping of narratives create systems which would appear fair even if they are not," he said.

Jaishankar also underlined the importance of introspecting about India's foreign policy in the last 75 years.

(With inputs from agency)

Also Read: PM Modi, Rishi Sunak hold talks, discuss FTA progress, India's strong performance at Cricket World Cup 2023

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