Sensitive issues should not eclipse UK FTA talks: Piyush Goyal

Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal said sensitive issues should not scuttle free trade agreement (FTA) talks with the United Kingdom.

The statement assumes significance in the backdrop of the UK’s international trade secretary Kemi Badenoch‘s statement that more student visas for India were not part of the proposed trade deal, a sensitive issue for India.

“Let us not allow the sensitive issues to scuttle our discussions,” Goyal told mediapersons on the sidelines of the Business 20 (B20) inception meeting on Tuesday.

Regarding talks with Canada, Goyal said, “It’s called an early progress trade agreement in which we are hoping to capture the low hanging fruits so that businesses can start enjoying the fruits faster.”

He said when people start seeing the benefits then others also want to join in.

Slowdown in exports

Goyal said he is in touch with export promotion councils on a weekly basis, keeping tabs on the export sector which is facing headwinds due to recession in some advanced economies. India’s merchandise exports contracted 12.2% year-on-year to $34.48 billion in December 2022.The minister, however, exuded confidence about exports remaining robust and said the services exports in this financial year are expected to surpass the target of $300 billion.

“It’s tough times but we still feel confident that we’ll be able to maintain, if not do better than last year,” said Goyal.

In 2021-22, India’s overall exports stood at $669.65 billion.

He said there have been some ups and downs during individual months amid huge inflationary pressures, overstocking of various commodities and high inflation.

“With all these stresses, where every global leader is talking of very tough times, India’s exports, even now, up to December are 9% up from last year. Clearly we cannot sustain that kind of momentum given the difficult times. But we are on it,” he said.

India’s services exports have been rising, the minister said. “On services we are probably going to do at least 20% growth. And by current trends, we will exceed the target of $300 billion in this year,” he said.

“In all, it will be a very, very satisfying year given the global headwinds and the stress that is reported from almost every part of the world,” said Goyal. On large imports, he said some commodities such as oil and lithium ion are essential imports and cannot be immediately done away with.

The reporter is in Gandhinagar at the invitation of the CII

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