NEW DELHI: The UK has sought flexibility in India’s data norms as part of the talks for a trade and investment treaty, something that the government is unwilling to provide. While data adequacy is another area flagged by British businesses, the Indian government has pointed out that it has limited policy space.
During the deliberations between commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal and British international trade secretary Liz Truss on Saturday, Indian authorities pointed to their concerns on data security and the proposed legislation in the country that is being debated in Parliament. Besides, Cambridge Analytica episode in the UK was also flagged to indicate the need to be cautious.
Despite the gaps on datarelated issues, sources told TOI, the British government is keen to clinch a trade treaty at the earliest with an announcement for launch of negotiations expected when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits India in April and an early harvest scheme, or an initial deal to be worked out soon.
While the UK is keen that India lower the import duty on Scotch whisky, something that India is not averse to, provided its interests are protected. For New Delhi, textiles, leather and footwear are major areas of interest, where it wants easy market access and tariff cuts. In fact, as part of the FTA talks with the European Union, textile tariff cuts were seen to be a major gain as it would help Indian goods compete favourably with exports from Bangladesh and some other countries.
Sources said that the recent success of Covid-19 vaccine by Oxford-AstraZeneca that is being produced in India by the Pune-based Serum Institute is seen as a template that can be followed elsewhere in sectors such as defence or pharmaceuticals.
“Some of the British companies and universities are developing important technology that can be used to build for the world,” said a government source.
The collaboration comes amid the UK’s wariness with China in recent months, especially after the Covid-19 outbreak with the virus first detected in Wuhan.