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West Midlands set to benefit from new India trade deal

A new free trade deal is being thrashed out with India – and the West Midlands is at the front of the queue to benefit.

Department for International Trade handout photo of International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan during her visit to the JCB factory in New Dehli, India
Department for International Trade handout photo of International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan during her visit to the JCB factory in New Dehli, India

Strong links with India both economically and culturally put our region at an advantage.

There is also the small matter of the Commonwealth Games, which could hardly be better timed to showcase the region to a global audience.

The region is already home to many business that are either wholly owned by Indian groups or have strong links to India.

Jaguar Land Rover, which employs more than a thousand at its i54 factory alongside the M54, has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Indian conglomerate Tata Motors since 2008. Two brands. Staffordshire-based JCB has a major presence in India too.

Trade negotiations with India are not for the faint-hearted.

But with no progress on a free trade deal with the United States, and none expected in the foreseeable future, the formal start of talks with India, announced in New Delhi on Thursday, is the biggest negotiation the UK government will launch this year.

Minister for international trade Ranil Jayawardena says a successful deal could see a £300 million boost to the economy of the West Midlands, Shropshire and Staffordshire in the long term as a result of new opportunities, particularly for manufacturers of cars and parts.

India is on course to become the third largest economy in the world by 2050, and the government hopes UK-India trade will double over the course of this decade.

The UK has just launched negotiations with the International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan visiting New Delhi.

It is claimed that agreement on a deal would create huge benefits for both countries and could boost this country's total trade by up to £28 billion a year by 2035

Mr Jayawardena said: "There would be huge opportunities from this deal for the West Midlands.

"A huge number of jobs have already been created in the West Midlands as a result of investment from India with almost 30,000 in the region in 2019 employed because of Indian investment."

He said that tariffs for vehicle manufacturers currently sat at 125 per cent and could be slashed with a deal creating huge gains for the region.

Mr Jayawardena said businesses in the region would be at the front of the queue when it came to trading with India and it would be beneficial to levelling up efforts for the area by creating jobs and boosting prosperity

"Investment is too often overlooked. It creates jobs. We want to be the best place to invest," he added.

Staffordshire-based JCB also has a strong presence in India

Mr Jayawardena said it would help businesses to create high quality and well paid jobs to help level up.

A deal has the potential to almost double UK exports to India, boost our total trade by as much as £28 billion a year by 2035, and increase wages across the UK by up to £3 billion. Investment from Indian companies already supports 95,000 jobs across the UK.

Removing duties alone would increase exports to India by up to £6.8 billion, supporting tens of thousands of jobs across the UK. Important UK exports like Scotch whisky and cars currently face enormous duties of 150 per cent and 125 per cent respectively.

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games is seen as another lubricant to get the trade deal over the line.

A programme of events designed to bolster further trade and investment between India, the West Midlands and the UK has been announced.

The virtual programme, taking place during the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay in India, brings together political leaders, Indian investors, West Midlands, UK and Indian business leaders, as well as international cultural icons, all to mark the Commonwealth Games as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to advance shared economic ambitions.

As part of the programme, a virtual showcase was held last week, where key names from across the Indian business, tourism and cultural landscapes heard from government stakeholders, including Alex Ellis, British High Commissioner to the Republic of India and Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands. Discussions will build on the UK-India Enhanced Trade Partnership, unlocking new opportunities for British businesses exporting to India and Indian businesses investing in the UK.

Indian businesses and investors will be invited to the West Midlands during the Games followed by a mayoral-led delegation to India this autumn to promote opportunities for bilateral trade and investment. Key strategic focus areas will include tech & creative, professional services, future mobility and the data driven healthcare sectors.

Currently 57 per cent of Indian investment into the UK in 2020 made in the West Midlands. The region is home to 76 recorded Indian foreign direct investment worth more than £3.5bn in the future mobility, creative technologies and modern business service sectors, employing over 13,000 people. The region’s strong business offer has already attracted some of India’s biggest companies, including Tata Motors, State Bank of India, Infosys, OLA, Enzen Global, Suprajit Group, Elder Pharmaceuticals and more recently, BSA and Microland.

Dave Owen, executive director – global purchasing and supply chain at Jaguar Land Rover, said: “We are immensely proud to be both a member of the Tata family and a renowned global organisation in our own right, with our roots proudly in the West Midlands. The region is the hub of our international technology, engineering, R&D and manufacturing footprint, thanks to its enviable pool of specialist talent, excellent connectivity and transport links and highly capable industrial ecosystem.

“The wider economic and social advantages of nurturing strong relationships with India are compelling. Trade and investment create growth, jobs and regional prosperity, while close ties forged with Indian business enable greater UK access to some of the world’s leading players in technology, communication and software – which in turn benefit from the deep industrial expertise and innovation capability, for which the West Midlands is well known.”

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