LONDON — Britain’s trade chief has dismissed reports that a U.K.-India trade deal is imminent or will be signed at next month’s Cricket World Cup in India.
Trade and Commerce Secretary Kemi Badenoch said on Tuesday that reports her boss, Rishi Sunak, would travel to India next month to sign a deal to coincide with England’s World Cup match and India were “very optimistic reports from the newspapers” and that “it’s possible, but I wouldn’t set that kind of deadline.”
“We were always very, very clear that it was about the deal, not the day. We will achieve this when we have a mutually beneficial deal for India and the UK,” Badenoch told Westminster’s business and trade committee.
“We’ve done a lot, so we’re pretty close, but as I said (in Parliament) last week…. the last remaining elements are always the most difficult,” she added.
Over the past month, there has been feverish speculation that a deal was close to being reached, with British officials believing the Indian government was briefing local media to step up pressure on Sunak and Badenoch.
Both sides are racing to reach a deal before their respective elections in 2024. Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had initially set the deadline for October 2022.
The UK is still trying to gain greater access to the Indian market for its services firms during negotiations, with India resisting unless it obtains concessions on the mobility of Indian businesspeople, as well as several others questions.
There are also rows over tariffs on British goods like Scotch whisky, which currently faces a 150% tax when exported to India.