UK-India trade deal 'at risk' over disagreement about drug patents

Britain wants curbs on the production of cheaper non-branded medications

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to meet India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, next month. PA
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Britain’s lucrative proposed free trade deal with India is at risk over a UK request about the production of generic drugs, according to reports.

The UK wants drug patents to be extended before cheaper non-branded copies can be produced.

But negotiators for India have seemingly rejected the demand.

An Indian official told the Telegraph the government was “strongly opposed” to the idea and it was unlikely to be included in any final agreement.

Earlier this week, UK officials said “good progress” was being made on a trade deal, but it would be unlikely to be ready to sign when Rishi Sunak visits India next month.

The Prime Minister is expected to visit New Delhi for the G20 leaders' summit being held on September 9 and 10.

British trade minister Kemi Badenoch held talks with her Indian counterpart this week in New Delhi.

Talks over a future Free Trade Agreement (FTA) have made progress in recent months according to British and Indian officials, fuelling hopes a deal could be reached this year.

On Thursday the trade ministry announced a new UK-India marketing campaign to boost trade and investment links, aiming to double trade with India by 2030 with targeted trade missions in high-growth sectors such as higher education and agri-tech.

“I'm delighted to be returning to India to support their G20 Presidency, further our trade talks and meet key business leaders,” Ms Badenoch said in a statement.

Officials said the talks are entering the most difficult and complex phases.

But no timeline for finalising any deal has been confirmed.

Under Boris Johnson's premiership, the UK said it was seeking to complete a deal by October last year.

Last year, remarks from Home Secretary Suella Braverman voicing “reservations” about relaxing immigration controls for Indians as part of any agreement were reported to have provoked an angry response from ministers and officials in New Delhi.

Bilateral trade between India and the UK rose 16.6 per cent year-on-year to $20.42 billion in the 2022/23 fiscal year ending in March.

The 2030 UK-India Road Map, announced in 2021, commits both nations to deeper co-operation on health, climate, trade, education, science and technology, and defence.

Updated: August 26, 2023, 2:40 PM