Golden opportunity beckons for Scotch whisky sector as India trade negotiations begin
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is one of the voices predicting great opportunities for Scotland's whisky sector as the UK embarks on negotiations on an ambitious Free Trade Agreement with India.
UK international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan will hold talks with her counterpart, Indian minister of commerce and industry Piyush Goyal, to formally start talks on the deal that could create huge benefits across the UK.
India is one of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies and the UK Government and whisky industry are hoping the new deal will allow the Scotch whisky sector to find new markets among India’s growing middle class. To help achieve this, the UK Government is striving to slash duties of up to 150 per cent on whisky exports, offering a boost to distilleries and the whole spirits industry.
UK Government Minister for Scotland, Malcolm Offord, said: “Home to 1.4 billion consumers and one of the world’s fastest growing economies, India holds enormous potential for Scottish businesses as part of an ambitious new trade deal.
“On a recent visit to Mumbai, I saw first-hand how Scotland’s distilleries would benefit from the removal of tariffs as high as 150 per cent on whisky. Our thriving services sector would also receive a welcome boost.
“I look forward to talks with India progressing as we negotiate new global trading relationships for the benefit of people and businesses across the UK.”
Mark Kent, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: “The new year offers new hope for reducing the longstanding 150 per cent tariff on Scotch Whisky in India.
“Launching UK/India trade talks offers a golden opportunity to reach an ambitious tariff reduction in an early harvest deal that could grow Scotch Whisky exports to India by £1 billion over five years. Tackling the tariff and State level regulatory issues would open the market up to smaller producers who are effectively locked out by the substantial barriers to trade.
“Improved market access for Scotch would enable an increasing number of Indian consumers to enjoy our premium product. It would also be good for our industry and Indian government tax revenues – a win-win for all.”
A deal has the potential to almost double UK exports to India, the government claims, boosting UK total trade by as much as £28 billion a year by 2035, and increasing wages across the UK by up to £3 billion. Investment from Indian companies already supports 95,000 jobs across the UK.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “A trade deal with India’s booming economy offers huge benefits for British businesses, workers and consumers. As we take our historic partnership with India to the next level, the UK’s independent trade policy is creating jobs, increasing wages and driving innovation across the country.
“The UK has world-class businesses and expertise we can rightly be proud of, from Scotch whisky distillers to financial services and cutting-edge renewable technology. We are seizing the opportunities offered in growing economies of the Indo-Pacific to cement our place on the global stage and deliver jobs and growth at home.”
UK international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “A deal with India is a golden opportunity to put UK businesses at the front of the queue as the Indian economy continues to grow rapidly. By 2050 India will be the world’s third largest economy with a middle class of almost 250 million shoppers. We want to unlock this huge new market for our great British producers and manufacturers across numerous industries from food and drink to services and automotive.
“As an independent, deal-making nation the UK is broadening our economic horizons and forging stronger partnerships with the fastest-growing economies of the world. India marks the start of our ambitious five -star year of UK trade and will show how the deals we negotiate will boost the economies across all nations and help level up all regions of the UK.”
The first round of negotiations is expected to start next week – making it the UK’s quickest start of formal talks between negotiating teams following a launch.
During her visit to India the International Trade Secretary will also co-chair a meeting of the UK-India Joint Economic and Trade Committee to review how businesses in both countries are benefiting from existing market access commitments under the UK-India Enhanced Trade Partnership agreed last May by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Indian PM Narendra Modi.
She is also expected to meet with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav to discuss wider bilateral cooperation.
The potential for trade has also been welcomed by the British Chambers of Commerce.
William Bain, head of trade policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “These negotiations could lead to better trading terms for UK exporters and a substantial increase in trade with India over the next decade. If agreement can be reached with India on tariff reduction, removing technical barriers to trade in goods and services, and on digital trade it has the best potential of any of the UK’s individual free trade negotiations to date.
“Although the EU will stay our closest and most important trading partner by far, a comprehensive deal with India would certainly create new opportunities, particularly for small and medium-sized exporting firms.
“But it is important that Government works in partnership with business around these negotiations right from the start. Business in India can also make a strong case for a deep trade agreement to generate the most value for firms and consumers.”