April 23, 2024
CII UK India Business Forum relaunched in London

CII UK India Business Forum relaunched in London

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United Kingdom PM Rishi Sunak. File.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United Kingdom PM Rishi Sunak. File.
| Photo Credit: ANI

Indian and British business leaders gathered in London on March 19 to relaunch the CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) UK India Business Forum (IBF) following a hiatus that began shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The launch comes as the two countries continue to finalise a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

An objective of the relaunched platform would be to look at greater collaboration and deepen connections which “will go beyond business”, CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee said, speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the event.

There is a big opportunity to deepen connections between India and the U.K., according to Mr. Banerjee, and not just in terms of investment but also in R&D, academic and industrial collaboration.  Bilateral trade in goods and services reached  £38.1 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q3 2023, as per official UK data.

“Capacity building is something both our countries can benefit from,” Mr. Banerjee said, adding that the countries needed to prepare for a future in which jobs look different. The two governments had signed a research and innovation agreement in April 2023 to deepen the science and technology aspect of their partnership.

Mr. Banerjee suggested there was a need to get more young people in Britain familiar with India — a sentiment echoed by India’s High Commissioner to the U.K., Vikram Doraiswami, who also attended the event and suggested that young British people could study abroad, for a semester in India, and then do an internship there facilitated by the IBF.

“There is hardly any part of the business relationship that is not touched by the India connection,” Mr. Doraiswami said, describing that connection as existing “from the towels used at Centre Court in Wimbledon to Jaguar Land Rover cars” and including hotels and pharmaceutical companies.

However, there was a knowledge gap about the relationship and an opportunity to rebrand the business relationship, according to the High Commissioner, who suggested the forum inform leaders and policymakers in both countries about the employment and growth opportunities India and the U.K. bring to one another, and the strategic importance they hold for each other.

The IBF should explore joint ventures in emerging sectors as well as collaboration  in cyber security and space exploration, clean energy, and conservation initiatives, according to UK IBF Chair Keshav Murugesh, who is also the Group CEO of WNS, a business process management company. Mr. Murugesh called for greater connections between young Britons and companies in India.

FTA between elections?

Responding to a question  on whether the FTA could be signed after the Indian elections and before the U.K. elections, Mr. Banerjee answered in the affirmative, saying at this stage it was “just the detailing” and that there were no major roadblocks. The CII is one of several organisations that has been involved with the U.K.-India trade negotiations.

Signing a trade deal with India before the U.K. elections, likely to be held between October 2024 and January 2025 , is likely to be used by the Rishi Sunak government as an example of the U.K. forging partnerships independent of the European Union, i.e., a post-Brexit success story.

India is also negotiating trade deals with the EU as well as other countries. On March 10, India signed a Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) with the European Free Trade Association (a group of four European countries that are not in the EU) after 21 rounds of negotiations.

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