New Delhi– Post its June referendum to leave the European Union, Britain on Friday initiated the process of recasting its trade relations with India dating to colonial times with a meeting here between British Business Secretary Sajid Javid and Indian Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Nirmala Sitharaman
Nirmala Sitharaman

“Post Brexit (vote to exit EU), the UK Business Minister has now made the outreach to India, informally, now with this visit here. We are happy to engage niformally with the UK on trade and investment,” Sitharaman told reporters here after meeting Javid.

“These talks will have to be followed-up step by step, then formalised, before we can indicate whether we are looking at a preferential trade agreement (PTA) or a free trade agreement,” she said.

Noting that Britain was a “major component of our trade with the EU”, Sitharaman said that she has invited the chief negotiatiors from both sides to start the process of informal negotiations.

“Having recognised Brexit has happened, the talks on a trade agreement have to start afresh. There is great potential for goods and services trade between India and the UK, and services in particular with us being a member of the Commonwealth,” she added.

Javid told reporters: “We had very positive and constructive discussions and are ready to build on the constructive releationship that the UK and India already have.”

Britain accounts for 15 per cent of India’s total merchandise trade. It is also the third largest inward investor into India, after Mauritius and Singapore, with cumulative foreign direct investment (FDI) equity investments of $22.7 billion (from April 2000 to December 2015), or eight per cent of the total FDI inflows.

In turn, India is the third largest investor, based on the number of projects, into Britain.

Sitharaman also said negotiations would continue for an FTA with the European Union.

Javid however declined to take queries regarding his meeting earlier on Friday in Mumbai with Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry along with Tata Steel top brass on the issue of the company’s proposed sale of its steel assets in Britain.