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India, UK Working sincerely on Free Trade Agreement: MEA

India said on Thursday it is “sincerely” working with the UK to finalize the proposed free trade agreement, days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Rishi Sunak agreed on the “early closing” of the deal.

“Both sides are sincerely working on the free trade agreement,” said Arindam Bagchi, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

His comments came when asked about the free trade agreement during a media briefing.

“As we have said before, the negotiations are best left to the trade ministers and their teams of officials. I can’t say anything about the status. I certainly don’t have a target date,” Bagchi said.

The issue of the free trade agreement was raised in the first telephone conversation between the two prime ministers on October 27.

In a tweet about his talks with Sunak, Modi said: “Congratulations to him on his appointment as Prime Minister of the UK. We will work together to further strengthen our comprehensive strategic partnership. We also agreed on the importance of swiftly concluding a comprehensive and balanced free trade agreement.” In April, the two sides had set a Diwali deadline for concluding the free trade agreement, but the deal could not be finalized due to disagreements over certain issues.

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly are known to take stock of the ongoing FTA negotiations during their talks here last week.

Slim visited India to attend a UN counter-terrorism meeting.

When asked about the US not having a full-time ambassador to India, Bagchi said “we hope the position will be filled soon”.

The Biden administration had announced in July 2021 the appointment of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as the next US ambassador to India.

Garcetti’s nomination, however, has yet to be confirmed by the US Senate.

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