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India: Foreign Direct Investment and Trade

Volume 716: debated on Thursday 16 June 2022

2. What recent discussions she has had with her Indian counterpart on increasing (a) trade with and (b) foreign direct investment from India. (900490)

15. What recent discussions she has had with her Indian counterpart on increasing (a) trade with and (b) foreign direct investment from India. (900507)

Mr Speaker, I should also like to associate myself with your comments about our colleague Jo Cox.

Our trading relationship with India was worth over £24 billion last year, and we are already India’s top investment destination in Europe. We have had many discussions and remain determined to create more good jobs and boost wages across Britain. Together, we are bulldozing trade barriers and—from Scotch whisky to Welsh lamb and medical devices—I think we all know that a trade deal will take our relationship even further.

My constituency of Kensington has strong links with India. We have the oldest gurdwara in the whole of Europe, the Khalsa Jatha, and we also have the residency of the Indian high commission. Indeed, on Sunday I will be with the Indian high commissioner in Holland Park launching International Yoga Day. Everyone is welcome to attend. [Laughter.] Can my hon. Friend explain to the House how a trade agreement with India can benefit the whole of the UK?

I may not be sufficiently flexible to attend and to join the high commissioner on International Yoga Day, but it is wonderful to hear of my hon. Friend’s collaboration.

Following the Prime Minister’s visit to India in April, British and Indian businesses have confirmed more than £1 billion of new investment and export deals in areas from software engineering to health, and this has created almost 11,000 jobs across the country, including in Edinburgh, Leeds, Northumberland and York. This illustrates how investment and a trade deal will continue to bolster our levelling-up agenda to the benefit of the whole of the United Kingdom.

Does the Minister agree that British business should look more towards India than China for future trade relationships given its democratic structure and our historical ties, and what steps are the Government taking to encourage and facilitate that?

The world’s oldest democracy and the world’s biggest are certainly natural partners, and this, alongside our historical ties and thoroughly modern relationship with one of the fastest growing economies in the world, makes India a clear priority trading partner for the United Kingdom. Through the integrated review, we are pursuing deeper engagement with India and other partners across the Indo-Pacific, and I am very keen to continue our work to support those who do so much to champion Anglo-Indian relations.

Mr Speaker, may I associate myself with your comments about Jo Cox? It is hard to believe that it is six years, but while she was cruelly taken from us and from her family, she very clearly lives on with her legacy, and we remember that.

I thank the Minister for his response. We understand that there are clear contacts between ourselves and India culturally, economically and historically. At the same time, can the Minister outline what steps are being taken to ensure compliance with human rights, which is an essential component of any trade deal, as a priority? Human rights must be central to any deal.

I know that the hon. Gentleman is a great champion of religious freedom in particular, and the Government’s international obligations and commitments, including on freedoms, are always of paramount importance when it comes to making our decisions. We encourage all states to uphold their obligations, and we condemn any incidences of discrimination because of religion or belief, regardless of the country or faith involved. We do engage with India on a range of issues, as global Britain does carry the torch of freedom forward.

We very much welcome the prospect of increased trading opportunities with India, a country with which we have many historical ties. At the COP26 summit in Glasgow last year, Prime Minister Modi announced demanding commitments to reduce emissions. After the Government’s shocking sell-out on the Australia deal, what preparation is the Minister making to use a possible trade deal to support Modi’s ambitions and to act on recommendations from the CBI about how our trade policy can support our climate goals, such as by including incentives to meet or surpass emissions reduction targets in a trade agreement?

I am not going to comment on live negotiations. Indeed, we were delighted to welcome the Indian negotiators to London this week for a further round of discussions. We have been very clear that we want trade to be a force for good in the world, including green trade, which we believe can create thousands if not millions of jobs across Britain and indeed the world, and I am sure that the Indian Government would agree.