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Discussions for the proposed free trade agreement between India and the United Kingdom are focused on what is acceptable to both countries, said Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday. 

He also stated that students visas are never part of a free trade agreement (FTA), according to the news agency PTI. 

Speaking to media persons here, Goyal, “With UK, our approach is let's focus on what is acceptable to both the countries and let us now allow sensitive issues to scuttle our discussion. Have you ever heard of student visas being part of FTA? How many students go there (UK) to study? It's never a part of an FTA."

Recently, India concluded the sixth round of talks with the UK and the next round will be held soon. 

Last year, negotiations with the UK started on January 13 with an aim to boost bilateral trade and investments, which increased to USD 17.5 billion in 2021-22 as compared to USD 13.2 billion in 2020-21. India's exports stood at USD 10.5 billion in 2021-22, while imports were USD 7 billion, as per PTI reports. 

Speaking about the proposed trade deal with Canada, the minister asserted that India is looking at an early harvest agreement with the country which is called an early progress trade agreement. 

He was further asked about India's decision to opt out from the trade pillar of the 14-member Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). 

“If India would find it in the interest of the country, it will be happy to join that pillar. So until we see exactly what are the contours that are there and what are the benefits that are there, until that time we have said, we will observe what you (13 members of the IPEF) all are doing," Goyal said. 

India and the UK currently trade for about GBP 29.6 billion annually, according to official data from the UK government. Both parties formally began FTA negotiations at the beginning of last year, and after that October 2022 Diwali deadline was missed, Sunak promised to move "at pace" toward an FTA that does not "sacrifice quality for speed."

 

(With PTI inputs)

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