Prime minister Rishi Sunak expressed confidence in the possibility of securing a free trade deal with India but cautioned that there is still significant work ahead.
Sunak and Narendra Modi met on Saturday (9) for what Sunak described as a “very warm and productive discussion.” Their conversation included a wide range of topics, including trade and collaboration in areas such as education, research, and defense, The Guardian reported.
The meeting took place on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi, where Sunak, after the discussion, expressed confidence that they could collectively address the remaining challenges obstructing a free trade agreement.
“There’s a desire on both of our parts to see a successful trade deal concluded…but there is a lot of hard work that’s still to go,” Sunak told reporters. “There has to be a win-win for both countries.”
Negotiations on a trade deal began in January 2022 and have already missed several political deadlines. But recent comments from both Britain and India have suggested progress has been made.
Both parties have engaged in trade negotiations for over 18 months, and officials are growing more confident that they can conclude an agreement later this year.
Sunak said, “Prime minister Modi and I had a very warm and productive discussion on a range of different things. With regard to the trade deal, there is a desire on both our parts to see a successful trade deal concluded.
“The opportunities are there for both countries, but there is a lot of hard work that is still to go and we need to work through that, as we will do.”
Sunak further mentioned that the two leaders had explored potential avenues for future cooperation in defense, scientific research, and education, indicating the possibility of a significantly closer alliance on the horizon.
“India, as this G20 is showing, is going to be one of the most important geopolitical actors over the next years and decades,” he said.
Ahead of the visit to India, Sunak said the British government had no plans to change its approach to cutting net migration in order to seal a deal with India.
A British source close to the negotiations told Reuters in July that talks had gained momentum but that further work was needed on services and tariffs to secure an agreement.
A top Indian trade ministry official said later in July that both countries could sign the trade deal this year as they have reached consensus on the broad contours.
Earlier, Sunak said he would not put an arbitrary deadline on the deal.