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NEW DELHI : India and the UK concluded the third round of talks for the proposed free trade agreement in New Delhi on Friday covering ground on key areas. The two sides hope to sign the interim deal by October.

“Third round of India-UK FTA negotiations concluded in Delhi with two weeks of intense discussions, teams working extra hours to make good progress in policy areas resolving to continue positive conversations," India’s chief negotiator Nidhi Mani Tripathi tweeted on Sunday.

The third round of talks were likely to focus on issues including tariff concessions on alcoholic beverages and movement of professionals, among other things. India and the UK had covered significant ground in the last two rounds with the UK agreeing to eliminate duty on Indian rice and textile goods, while India is likely to allow duty-free entry of British apples, medical devices and machinery. The interim or early harvest agreement aims to cover 65% of goods and up to 40% of services, with the coverage in goods expected to go up to 90% in the full agreement.

The agreement is estimated to double India-UK bilateral trade to about $100 billion by 2030. An agreement is also expected on mutual recognition of higher education qualifications, a person aware of the development said. In the two rounds of negotiations that began in January, India and the UK have managed to close four out of 26 chapters in the FTA.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his India visit three weeks ago expressed his support for more skilled visas for Indians saying the UK is facing a shortage of experts in IT and programming.

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