Britain said it would start preliminary talks with India on Friday about an eventual bilateral trade deal after last month’s referendum vote to leave the European Union, which has forced London to rethink its trade ties with the rest of the world.
British Business Secretary Sajid Javid also said Britain would have as many as 300 trade specialists in place before the end of the year, up from about 100 now, as the country tries to increase its firepower to operate as a solo trading nation.
Britain has negotiated its trade deals through the EU for decades.
“Following the referendum result, my absolute priority is making sure the UK has the tools it needs to continue to compete on the global stage,” Javid said in a statement
“Over the coming months, I will be conducting similar meetings with other key trade partners, outlining the government’s vision for what the UK’s future trade relationship might look like,” he said.
Javid’s trip to New Delhi was likely to be followed in the coming months by discussions about trade with the United States, China, Japan and South Korea, the business ministry said.
London also appears to be keen to tighten its trade ties with China. A source close to British finance minister George Osborne said he met senior officials from the world’s second-largest economy in London on Thursday to discuss trade, agreeing to work to foster stronger ties between the two countries.
India is by far the most populous nation in the 53-country Commonwealth, whose members are mostly former British colonies and represent a combined 2.2 billion people across the world.
Britain was the biggest foreign investor among the Group of 20 nations in India in 2015, while India represents the third-largest source of foreign direct investment in Britain, the British business ministry said in a statement.