IANS

After his talks with Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, visiting UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt on Monday said that the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and Britain will be finalised soon.

Addressing a press conference, Hunt said that the two countries are moving towards inking of a FTA.

Meanwhile India will also explore the possibility of direct listing of Indian companies at the London Stock Exchange (LSE), according to a joint statement issued after the conclusion of the 12th India-UK Economic and Financial Dialogue between Hunt and Sitharaman.

"The next step for this is a comprehensive FTA and bilateral investment treaty and I know discussions are ongoing as to how to finalise those as soon as possible," Hunt said on the trade pact.

Sitharaman echoed his view, but suggested that the negotiations will continue over the point of differences related to the proposed FTA.

"As you know, we agreed to have the investment negotiations (on FTA with UK) running parallel to the goods and services trade negotiations. So, we will be looking at points where there are convergences and if there are points on which we have to have further discussions, we will hold it. The keenness on both the sides is to conclude it as soon as possible," she said.

"The intention on both the sides is to expedite the discussions so that some quick agreements can lead to finally signing the FTA."

The announcements come within 48 hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Rishi Sunak, in their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit, agreed to "work at pace" towards signing the much-anticipated FTA.

Commenting on Indian companies looking to list directly on the LSE, Hunt said: "We are particularly pleased to have made a big step forward with the first confirmation by India that it will explore the London Stock Exchange as an international destination for the direct listing of Indian companies."

He added that there is a new pensions and insurance partnership between the two countries, along with the establishment of knowledge and expertise sharing mechanism.

Sitharaman told reporters that India and the UK "are highly encouraged" by the intensified collaboration in the area of financial services.

Hunt and Sitharaman also announced the launch of the "new UK-India Infrastructure Financing Bridge".

This is a collaborative venture co-led by government think tank Niti Aayog and the City of London Corporation which is aimed at harnessing collective expertise in planning and implementing major infrastructure projects, Sitharaman informed.

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