India, UK working sincerely on free trade agreement: MEA

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India on Thursday said it is working “sincerely” with the UK for finalisation of the proposed free trade agreement, days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Rishi Sunak agreed on the “early conclusion” of the deal. “Both sides are working sincerely on the free trade agreement,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

His comments came when asked about the FTA during a media briefing.

“As we have said earlier, the matter of negotiations is best left to the trade ministers and their teams of officials. I cannot comment on the status. I certainly do not have any target date,” Bagchi said.

The issue of the FTA figured in the first telephonic conversation between the two prime ministers on October 27.

In a tweet on his talks with Sunak, Modi said: “Congratulated him on assuming charge as UK PM. We will work together to further strengthen our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. We also agreed on the importance of early conclusion of a comprehensive and balanced FTA.”

In April, the two sides had set a Diwali deadline for concluding the FTA but the deal could not be finalised in view of differences over certain issues.

It is learnt that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly took stock of the ongoing negotiations for the FTA during their talks here last week.

Cleverly visited India to attend a United Nations meet on counter-terrorism.

To a question on the US not having a full time ambassador to India, Bagchi said “we would hope the position would be filled soon”.

The Biden administration had in July 2021 announced the nomination of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as the next US Ambassador to India.

However, Garcetti’s nomination is yet to receive confirmation from the US Senate.

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