India-UK FTA: Strong Support for Women-Owned SMEs Signals Commitment to Economic Inclusivity and Gender Equality

By Consultants Review Team Thursday, 06 July 2023

UK Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch has emphasized the potential benefits that the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and the UK could bring to small and medium companies (SMEs) owned and led by women. In response to a report by the House of Commons Business and Trade Committee, which examines the government's foreign trade policies, Badenoch reiterated the importance of promoting trade and gender equality cooperation.

Badenoch stated that the chapter on trade and gender equality, which aims to enhance the participation of women-owned and women-led SMEs in international trade, has now been officially concluded. The inclusion of this chapter is expected to enhance the competitiveness of such businesses and create opportunities for their growth and success.

When addressing concerns about the potential adverse effects of trade liberalization on Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and rural areas, Badenoch expressed confidence that the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) would serve as a catalyst for companies of all sizes and from all regions in India and the UK to seize the opportunities presented by the agreement.

Badenoch underscored the significance of SMEs to the economies of both countries and highlighted that a chapter has been provisionally agreed upon to facilitate SMEs' understanding of and engagement with the respective systems of the other country. This provision aims to enable SMEs to leverage the numerous benefits offered by the comprehensive FTA.

According to data provided by the UK government, the bilateral trade between India and the UK reached £36 billion in 2022, representing a significant increase of 45% compared to the previous year. This robust commercial cooperation between the two countries supports approximately half a million jobs. With the proposed trade deal, the UK aims to triple its trade with India by 2030.

In terms of imports, the UK received goods from India valued at $20.8 billion in 2022, marking a 35% growth from 2021. India ranks as the 12th largest trading partner for the UK, contributing 2.1% to the overall trade volume. The upcoming 11th round of discussions for the free trade agreement is scheduled to commence in July, following the conclusion of the 10th round held in June.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) play a significant role in the UK's commercial landscape, constituting 99.9% of all enterprises. Official statistics indicate that in early 2022, there were approximately 5.5 million SMEs in the UK, comprising 5.47 million small businesses and 35,900 medium-sized businesses. This is in contrast to around 7,700 large companies.

The emphasis placed on assisting Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) owned and led by women during the ongoing discussions for the India-UK Free Trade Agreement reflects a dedication to advancing inclusive economic development and gender equality. These enterprises now have an opportunity to thrive under the proposed agreement, while also playing a role in the growth of the bilateral trade relationship between the two countries.

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