UK-India trade deal

UK-India trade deal

The UK and India are negotiating a trade deal where sustainable development is barely mentioned. There are several concerning elements of this trade deal, not least that the UK is pursuing a deal in the context of serious human rights violations in India, including the detention of UK national Jagtar Singh Johal for five years without trial. The trade deal itself could undermine several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What is TJM calling for?

TJM calls for a pause in the pursuit of a trade agreement until the serious human rights situation in India is rectified.

We also call for both parties to ensure a future trade agreement is fully aligned with their commitments to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Read more details in our UK-India trade negotiations report.

Trade negotiations: status update

Negotiations for a bilateral trade deal between the UK and India were launched in January 2022 and are still ongoing. The initial aim was to conclude talks by Diwali (24 October 2022), but the deadline was missed due to political developments in the UK. Britain expects to reach a free trade agreement (FTA) with India this year, but hasn't set clear deadlines.

The 7th and most recent round of negotiations for the proposed trade agreement between the UK and India were completed on 10 February 2023. Trade negotiators will begin the next round of talks on 20 March 2023.

Trade and human rights (SDG 16)

Serious human rights concerns have been raised by both domestic and international organisations in response to events in India. Allegations include disappearances, torture, excessive use of force and arbitrary arrests, unlawful and arbitrary surveillance of citizens, and listing academics, journalists and lawyers as “enemies of state.”

The UK has a number of human rights commitments under international agreements, including UN SDG 16 which commits parties to ‘promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies’.

We believe that India’s poor track record on human rights abuses should be adequate reason for the UK to pause negotiations until this situation has been resolved and India has signed and is implementing important international human rights conventions.

Trade and climate change (SDG 13)

The UK-India trade deal itself could undermine several of the UN SDGs, such as SDG 13 which commits parties to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.”

Trade deals have significant implications for the ability of countries to achieve their climate ambitions: they can drive an increase in emissions and also reduce the policy space available to parties to deliver on their climate commitments.

As it stands, the UK’s assessment predicts that the deal will cause an increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when the world has long agreed a dramatic reduction is needed to tackle the climate crisis. A scoping assessment of the deal with India carried out by the UK government estimated overall GHG emissions would increase between 0.08% and 0.14%. It also found that trade-related transport emissions would increase by 18% to 36%, depending on the depth of the deal.

A UK-India FTA must be explicitly aligned with both parties’ commitments on climate change, including keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees and the UK’s net zero target. This means ensuring all provisions are actively shaped with a view to reducing emissions.

Trade and gender (SDG 5)

Women continue to experience significant social and economic disadvantage as compared to men, including higher levels of unemployment, lower pay,

greater work insecurity and a disproportionate share of unpaid domestic and care work. UN SDG 5 commits parties to ‘achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’.

A UK-India FTA will have important impacts on gender equality, from women’s experiences of work to their ability to access essential services and the amount of time they are required to commit to caring and domestic work.

The UK’s approach to gender is currently limited to seeking ways to ensure women, primarily as entrepreneurs, are able to access the benefits of trade. This is out of step with the reality for women in India.

The UK must commission a full, independent assessment of the impacts of the deal for women and shape the deal accordingly, taking out or mitigating for any damaging provisions.

“We are concerned that the UK Government will complete the UK-India deal without a parliamentary vote or even a debate.

The current approach utterly fails people in India and the UK and could have long lasting negative effects on the environment, livelihoods and accesss to public services and medicines.”

Ruth Bergan, Director of the Trade Justice Movement
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