Legal processes take a little longer, says U.K. Minister
U.K.’s Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Mark Field, was in India. Britain and India’s bilateral trade have been on an upswing, growing by 20% to £19 billion, with India having a small trade surplus with the U.K.. In an interview, Mr. Field spoke about a host of issues, including Brexit. Edited excerpts:
How do you aim to grow trade between the U.K. and India?
We are excited by the tremendous opportunities available for developing work between the two countries. In the last 18 years, I have been the MP for the City of London with Harvard, the financial district, as my constituency. So, financial matters are close to my heart, especially fintech, technology development, insurance and work on insolvency. I think these are all important strands of work that we have to continue.
What’s the update on Brexit?
I think the thing about politics is that even if scenarios don’t work out as well as you hope, you live to fight another day. I never doubted this is going to be a very complicated process. The country is very deeply divided on this issue, so is the Parliament. I hope in national interest, the deal will be done.
Post Brexit, U.K. will have to sign separate free trade agreements (FTAs) with various countries…
Our priorities are U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and the CPTPP [Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership which is a free trade agreement between Canada and 10 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region]. India is a high priority [country] for developing our trade relationship. We take the view that it’s not just about a free trade agreement. There are lots of market access issues that we can discussThe Ministry of Commerce, just before Christmas, had agreed to relax some rules on land, for example. So that’s the kind of progress that we would like to be able to build up. We have the existing relationship with European Union and we have a two-year transition period during which we expect to establish the relationship.
What’s the progress on India- U.K. FTA?
I think it’s certainly something that we would look forward to. We do a lot of business already and that will continue. I know that politicians and bureaucrats like to see free trade agreements finalised. I am less concerned about the timing. We have got a range of activities and we will work together. It’s also worth pointing out that during my two-day stay in Mumbai, we have talked about working for the fourth industrial revolution.
What would be the scope of negotiation between India and U.K. on the FTA?
I don’t want to speculate too much about that.I think we know what our competitive strengths are. We have got a strong relationship which clearly we want to focus on. Most free trade agreements that we have signed with EU till date just focus on goods and not too much on services. So, these could be areas of mutual cooperation.
The U.K. visa is an area of concern for aspiring Indians
I appreciate the concerns often expressed to me about Indian visas. The single largest number of visas issued to any country is India compared to the rest of the world. There is a pretty efficient process and 97% of visa applications are accepted. The numbers of students that were on a downward trajectory for some years have moved up strongly. So, I see more and more students coming across and also businesses are encouraged.
How will the U.S., China trade war affect global trade?
We should spend less time on the rhetoric on President [Donald] Trump’s twitter feed and more on what he actually does. There were concerns on trade war a few months ago, but now both sides are coming down from that position. None of us wants to see a move towards protectionism and sentiment of protectionism.
Off late,Economic offenders like Vijay Mallya fled to U.K. and Indian authorities are facing issues in getting them back. Your comments?
There is a legal process and I think we all know the legal processes in India, or the U.K., take a little longer than we would like. [The] most recent judgment supported the idea of him (Vijay Mallya) being extradited. He has the right to appeal there, whether we are asking for extradition of a British citizen from India or vice versa. I think we all respect the idea that these are important issues of liberty.
Tata Group is facing issues with Tata Steel and JLR…
Well, I think you touched on something which is essentially both the steel industry and the automobile industry which are unfortunately going through difficult period. Tata, as a companys has the reputation of being in its market for long term. The two biggest aspects of Tata’s U.K. operations reflect short-term market conditions.
Cairn Energy and Vodafone have long-pending disputes with Indian tax authorities…
I respect the idea that there’s a process that has to be gone through with tax authorities. In relation to Vodafone and Cairn Energy, I have made representations with your new High Commissioner in London. Obviously, those companies are keen to have that situation resolved. It’s not for us to intervene in the process but we do obviously make representations. I hope for a rapid resolution of both the cases.