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Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has confirmed that India and the UK are moving towards an early harvest trade agreement, with a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) the next step.

Taking to Twitter soon after a virtual meeting with his UK counterpart, Liz Truss, on Monday, the minister described his discussions as "productive" and reflecting further strengthening of India-UK trade ties.

"Held a productive discussion with Secretary of State for International Trade, UK Right Honourable Liz Truss, on enhancing the India-UK trade partnership," said Goyal.

"India and UK are strengthening trade ties by moving towards an early harvest deal, followed by a comprehensive FTA," he said.

UK Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss, in her Twitter statement, announced the launch of trade working groups to lay the groundwork for a forthcoming UK-India trade agreement.

"Today Piyush Goyal and I launched trade working groups to lay the groundwork for our forthcoming UK-India trade deal, which will: boost access to more than a billion consumers; bolster our science & tech industries; and support jobs in both countries," she said.

The UK's Department for International Trade (DIT) said the talks between the two ministers focussed on the "scope and ambition" for a UK-India free trade agreement (FTA), following the close of the UK's formal consultation process ahead of the negotiations on August 31.

"They discussed the findings from the consultation and agreed the steps to get ready to launch negotiations later this year - including the start of a series of trade working groups from September," notes a DIT readout of Monday's meeting.

"They also discussed the newly established Enhanced Trade Partnership, and confirmed their commitment to timely implementation of the market access package," the DIT said.

The UK government said these regular ministerial dialogues help both sides better understand each other's position on potential "chapter areas" in any trade deal, including tariffs, standards, IP and data regulation.

"The International Trade Secretary reaffirmed her ambition to negotiate a trade agreement that delivers results for the British people and businesses including those in digital and data, tech and food and drink. Both ministers agreed that continuing to engage with the business community was vital throughout the forthcoming negotiations," DIT said.

According to officials, findings from the DIT's public consultation will be published before the start of formal trade negotiations as part of a wider package outlining a strategic rationale for the FTA, including the UK's negotiating objectives and economic analysis of a potential deal.

Earlier, the UK trade ministry had said that preparations towards an FTA with India are progressing. A deal would represent a major boost for UK exporters, lowering tariffs, easing regulation, and driving up bilateral trade which totalled GBP 23 billion in 2019, it noted.

Increasing UK-India trade has been dubbed a "huge opportunity" by the UK, given India's position as one of the world's biggest and fastest-growing economies and home to more than a billion consumers.

"I see the UK and India in a sweet spot of the trade dynamics that are building up," Truss said at a City of London Corporation event celebrating the UK-India economic partnership last week.

"We are looking at a comprehensive trade agreement that covers everything, from financial services to legal services to digital and data, as well as goods and agriculture. We think there is a strong possibility for us to get an early agreement, where we lower tariffs on both sides and start to see more goods flowing between our two countries," she said.