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Want visas for professionals, business in UK FTA: Govt

New Delhi, Oct 14, 2022

UK home secretary Suella Braverman’s comments are drawing a sharp reaction from Indian officials, who are accusing Britain of raising unrelated issues and maintain that the government is only seeking an easier visa regime for businessmen and professionals.

“It is not as if we are seeking to push economic migrants through the trade agreement. We have signed treaties with the UAE and Australia, which have provided for an easier dispensation for our professionals and that is what we want from the UK too,” a government source told TOI, while accusing Braverman of speaking out of turn and without full understanding of the issue.

In an interview, the UK home secretary expressed reservations over a relaxation through the trade pact and had claimed Indians were the “largest group of people who overstayed”. Indian officials said that the British government should share data on the number of Indian business visitors who have overstayed in the UK.

On Saturday, TOI had reported about negotiators missing the Diwali deadline for the FTA due to hardening of stand by India, which is unlikely to offer major duty concessions without getting visa benefits. Officials suggested that a part of the delay is also due to thechallenge being faced by the Liz Truss government.

They argued that it was skilled workers who made use of business visas and several professionals, such as those in the healthcare or the technology spheres went to the UK and other countries, which had a shortage of skilled personnel and needed qualified people.

They pointed to the competition from companies operating in India to retain talent, given that their businesses were expanding both within the country as well as overseas. While Braverman’s comments are seen to have slowed down negotiations, both sides are seen to be committed to clinch the deal.

Commerce & industry minister Piyush Goyal had last week said India wanted a good deal, and not necessarily a quick one, something the UK too echoed. On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the UK department for international trade had said, “We continue to seek improvements to our trading relationship. This is why we are negotiating a high-ambition free trade agreement. We remain clear we won’t sacrifice quality for speed, and will only sign when we have a deal that meets both countries’ interests. ”

India and the UK began negotiating a trade deal, which goes beyond goods and services to the so-called “new issues”, after Brexit, as the Modi government took free trade agreements out of the cold storage, after exiting talks for RCEP. New Delhi is also engaged in talks with Canada, the European Union and Israel for possible trade agreements.

[The Times of India]