07 Nov 2016 12:28 IST

Vital to deepen trade ties with India: British PM Theresa May

May said Britain is ready to offer several concessions to Indian business travellers

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday said having deeper trade and investment ties with India is vital for her country before Great Britain officially exits the European Union.

May said Britain is ready to offer several concessions to Indian business travellers such as faster clearances at the UK’s border under a scheme – Great Club – that smoothens the visa process for them.

Inaugurating the India-UK Tech Summit jointly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, May said nine out 10 visa applications from India are already being accepted, attracting the “best and the brightest”, even as she turned down India’s demand for visa relaxation across the board.

"As we leave the EU, we want to ensure that the UK remains one of the most attractive countries in the world to do business and invest. Indian investment is helping us diversify our economy,” May said before her bilateral meeting with Modi.

Describing India as one of the UK's "most important and closest" friends and a leading power in the world, Prime Minister May said she will hold talks with her counterpart Narendra Modi to bolster bilateral strategic ties in areas such as defence, security and trade.

Modi, on the other hand, said both countries were facing several economic challenges that is making trade and commerce difficult.

“In the current global environment, our two countries face several economic challenges, which directly affects trade and commerce. But I am confident that together we can leverage our scientific strengths and technological prowess to create new opportunities,” Modi said at the Summit, which was organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

The PM also highlighted that bilateral trade has remained at the same level for the past five years and investments in both directions have been robust.

India is the third largest investor in the UK, and the UK is the largest G20 investor in India. Both countries support a large numbers of jobs in each other’s economies, he said.

Modi also said the UK as a leading player can benefit from India’s liberal foreign investment policies in defence manufacturing, aerospace and electronics engineering.

This is PM May’s first bilateral visit outside the EU after assuming office. She is accompanied by British Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, who will be meeting Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman later in the day.

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