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Modi, Sunak agree to work towards ‘ambitious’ FTA during talks in Japan

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LONDON, May 21 (PTI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Rishi Sunak on Sunday reviewed the progress of the ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations and agreed for their trade teams to continue at pace towards an “ambitious” deal, Downing Street said.

Modi and Sunak met on the sidelines of the summit of the G7 advanced economies here in Hiroshima.

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In their second in-person meeting since the G20 Summit in Indonesia last November, the two leaders are said to have discussed the deep ties shared between the nations.

In relation to India’s G20 presidency, Downing Street also indicated that the British Indian leader’s first visit to India is expected to be for the G20 Summit in New Delhi later this year.

“The leaders reflected on the deep ties between the UK and India, rooted in our human connections, and the vital importance of democracy and fair and open trade,” said a Downing Street spokesperson.

“They discussed progress on a UK-India Free Trade Agreement. The leaders agreed that their teams would continue to work at pace to finalise an ambitious and mutually beneficial deal,” the spokesperson said.

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“The leaders discussed the wider objectives of the G7 Summit and the Prime Minister [Sunak] committed his strong support for India’s G20 Presidency, which comes at a crucial time for global security and prosperity. He looked forward to working closely with Prime Minister Modi ahead of a successful Summit later this year,” the spokesperson added.

Modi is also said to have passed on his “warm congratulations” to Sunak on the Coronation of King Charles III earlier this month, where India was represented by Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) readout of the meeting echoed similar outcomes of the in-person meeting between the two leaders, as they reviewed the India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, including taking stock of progress in the India-UK FTA negotiations.

The two nations last month concluded the ninth round of FTA negotiations with detailed discussions across a range of policy areas.

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Recently, Britain’s Chief Negotiator for the FTA – Harjinder Kang – was appointed the country’s new Trade Commissioner to South Asia and Deputy High Commissioner for Western India, based in Mumbai.

According to official UK government statistics, India was the UK’s 12th largest trading partner in the four quarters to the end of Q3 2022, accounting for 2.1 per cent of total UK trade.

They also agreed to deepen cooperation across a wide range of areas, such as trade and investment, science and technology, higher education, and people-to-people relationship.

During discussions on India’s G20 presidency, Prime Minister Modi said he looked forward to welcoming Sunak to New Delhi for the G20 Summit in September.

The G7 Summit concluded in Hiroshima this weekend after wide-ranging discussions between leaders from the largest economies of the world. India was invited as a guest nation to the Group of Seven, which includes the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy, with the European Union (EU) as a non-enumerated member.

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The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur
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