British FM Osborne urges India to open up financial services

British FM Osborne urges India to open up financial services

Mumbai: British finance minister George Osborne called on Wednesday for India to speed up the opening of its financial services market and said that he wanted to see completion of a free-trade agreement with Europe by early 2011.

In a speech in Mumbai, Osborne said that greater Anglo-Indian cooperation would bring benefits for both sides and announced that India’s Exim Bank will be granted a licence to operate in Britain and the State Bank of India would base its European headquarters in London.

Ten weeks since taking office, Osborne came to Mumbai this week as part of Britain’s biggest trade delegation in modern times.

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He will join Prime Minister David Cameron and a host of other ministers and businessmen in Delhi later on Wednesday as Britain’s new coalition government pulls out all the stops to foster a new special relationship with its former colony.

“The UK has a vital stake in India’s rise to global power and prosperity and we are here to listen and to learn, to find out how our strong relationship can grow stronger still," Osborne said.

He said this would involve boosting trade links, better cooperation between financial services industries and a better recognition of common goals in the international policy arena.

Osborne would clearly like to see India do more to open up its giant market to financial firms.

“Standard Chartered, HSBC and RBS are three of the top four foreign retail banks in India," he said. “Offer them licences in the medium-sized towns and smaller cities and they will jump at the opportunity to be part of the huge effort to bring modern banking services to millions more Indians."

He also called on the Indian government to make good on its commitment to raise the foreign direct investment cap on insurance companies to 49% from the current 26%.

Osborne also said that more needed to be done to complete the European Union-India free-trade agreement.

“Negotiations are now entering their fourth year. We need to provide the leadership to complete the free trade agreement by early next year," he said.