TJM statement on the new round of UK-India trade negotiations

Posted on March 20, 2023
UK Secretary of State for International Trade Kemi Badenoch meets India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal in December 2022

The UK and India have formally started the 8th round of negotiations, with the aim to strike a trade deal by the end of the year.

Ruth Bergan, Director of the Trade Justice Movement, said:

“Trade deals should be an opportunity for parties to work together to get the enabling environment right before signing. Progress on climate, the environment, human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals is critical to ensuring positive benefits. The start of this new round of negotiations with India is an opportunity for the UK Government to show it is determined to deliver on its commitments. Without progress in these areas, pursuing a decades-old model with India could lock in or exacerbate problems like poor labour rights, particularly for the large numbers of women workers in the informal sector. Negotiations should be paused to give an opportunity to reset. There is no good reason to rush into a deal.

Human Rights

“India’s poor track record on human rights abuses, including the arbitrary detention for over five years of British national Jagtar Singh Johal should be adequate reason for the UK to rethink its pursuit of a trade deal with India altogether. The UK should work with India to address the human rights situation and ensure it has ratified and is implementing all relevant international conventions and protection of rights. This does not mean an end to trade between the two countries, rather that the UK is not willing to offer the additional benefits of a deal unless and until the human rights issues are rectified.

Climate change

“Both the UK and India are signatories to the Paris Climate deal. The UK has committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and in 2021, Indian Prime Minister Modi announced a 2070 net zero target. UK assessments show that the final deal is likely to increase emissions. Neither country should therefore be contemplating signing a deal until they have found ways to prevent or mitigate for this.


“Both countries are committed to achieving gender equality under the SDGs. The trade deal is likely to lock in existing inequalities and make it harder to introduce new measures. The UK government has committed to a blanket objective to promote women’s access to the full benefits and opportunities of this deal, however there has been no recognition of the complex labour market situation for women in India. The most obvious of which is that less than one-fifth of Indian women are actually in work, let alone engaged in international tradeThe impact of the deal on things like regulation, services and agriculture are likely to be of much more significance for women.


“We continue to have concerns about the poor processes for scrutiny of this deal, particularly in light of strong human rights concerns. . The existing mechanisms for Parliament and the general public to scrutinise trade deals are not fit for purpose. It is also disappointing that the Government has still not shown any intention of publishing a trade strategy. Without this, this new trade deal is being negotiated without an overarching vision or goal.”


Image: UK Secretary of State for International Trade Kemi Badenoch meets India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal in December 2022. Credit Twitter @PiyushGoyal