India has the fifth largest economy in the world, and a trade deal could offer huge opportunities for UK farmers to export more quality, UK food abroad, especially as the UK government is aiming to double the flow of trade to the country by 2030.
“A trade deal with India poses many opportunities for UK farmers to sell more quality, sustainable British food overseas.
NFU President Minette Batters
However, it’s vital negotiators use this as an opportunity to demonstrate our trade principles of high animal welfare and environmental protection and ensure these are upheld for imports too.
Otherwise we risk striking another trade deal which allows agri-food imports to undercut domestic food production here in the UK.
We will not condone breaches
Fair competition and trading must also form a key part of negotiations, especially as the World Trade Organisation has recently found India to be illegally subsidising sugar production to make it more globally competitive.
It’s crucial we don’t condone this by offering up our market to food produced under these conditions, as this would immediately put UK growers at a competitive disadvantage.
Five weeks of reflection
Negotiations start immediately, taking place in ‘virtual negotiating rooms’ and are expected to run for two weeks, after which both trade teams will spend five weeks reflecting on discussions and setting out next steps.
The talks are then expected to follow the same two weeks ‘on’ and five weeks ‘off’ cycle.
Both the UK and India have outlined a shared ambition to reach a deal this year. This is a very ambitious target as India is such a highly protected economy, but achievable if the ambition is met by both sides.
However, it is also important this deal is not rushed to meet arbitrary deadlines. We want to see negotiators take the time to ensure both countries stand to benefit.
British food overseas
NFU President Minette Batters said: “A trade deal with India poses many opportunities for UK farmers to sell more quality, sustainable British food overseas.
"If we are granted greater access to the Indian market, which at the moment is limited, I am confident that our traceability, food production and safety standards would be very well received by consumers there."
“At the same time, the forthcoming FTA talks offer a good opportunity for our government to uphold its values on high standards and fair competition for UK farmers, and can demonstrate its trade principles in these talks," Mrs Batters continued.
"India has recently been found to be in breach of its WTO commitments by illegally subsidising its sugar production, and the government should not be granting enhanced access to the UK’s market for imported food produced under such conditions."
Supporting fair trading conditions
Mrs Batters concluded: “Negotiating with a developing country presents unique challenges.
"UK negotiators should seek a trade agreement which upholds the UK’s high standards, while supporting international development and promoting fair and equitable trading conditions for farmers on both sides.”
The NFU’s team of trade experts are focused on ensuring that opportunities arising from trade deals are grasped. We will continue to press for the interests of British farming throughout every stage of negotiations.