190802 Boris Johnson
The trip is Johnson’s first since becoming prime minister in 2019. Image Credit: AFP

New Delhi: India is keen to finalise a trade pact with Britain by October and will seek easier access to visas for skilled workers and students when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the country later this week.

Johnson, who kicks off a two-day visit today, will discuss lowering import duty on British whiskey and scotch in his talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two leaders are likely to set a deadline for a comprehensive economic partnership agreement.

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India and Britain launched negotiations for a free trade agreement in January, with an aim to double the trade by 2030. Total trade between the two nations stood at over $16 billion in 2021-22, according to Indian government data.

The talks started in January are progressing well, Johnson’s spokesman Max Blain told reporters on Wednesday.

Deeper integration

While India wants duty concessions for other goods as well, including textiles, it will also explore deeper integration of value chain in the automobiles and auto parts segment. The UK is keen for greater access for its companies in India’s accounting and legal services sector - a red line given the massive push back from domestic players.

The agreement is likely to be much more broad-based than the previously discussed interim deal, the person said. Two rounds of negotiations have already been held while the third round is scheduled next week.

The trip is Johnson’s first since becoming prime minister in 2019. He was originally due to visit the country in April 2021, but that trip was cancelled after COVID-19 cases surged in India.