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India-UK free trade agreement to be signed once it exits the European Union in 2 years Time

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New Delhi, March 28, 2017: With Britain set to launch the formal process of its exit from the EU on Wednesday, a prominent British entrepreneur has said that a joint working group of officials from both countries is working on an India-UK free trade agreement to be signed once it exits the EU in two years time.

“One of the very important steps forward of Theresa May’s (India) visit last November was that we now have a government-to-government working group with the Commerce Secretary and the International Trade Secretary in charge that is looking at the totality of the relationship,” Patricia Hewitt, Chair UK-India Business Council, told BTVi in an interview.

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“What I found since the referendum is the great enthusiasm on the part of India’s political and business leaders as well as Britain’s political and business leaders, for…it may be a free trade agreement…perhaps more accurately a comprehensive economic partnership. This was discussed further during Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s very successful visit to London recently,” she said.

“And the aim there is not only to identify things that both governments could act on immediately even before Brexit actually happens, but also to lay the groundwork for a more formal agreement..a bilateral agreement that could happen once the UK actually leaves the European Union,” she added.

British Prime Minister Theresa May plans to trigger Article 50 – the step that starts the process of negotiations for Britain’s formal exit from the EU – on Wednesday.

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There is consequent uncertainty over what will happen once Britain leaves the EU because it needs to make new trade agreements with the rest of the world.

Indian Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced this joint working group last year following talks here with UK’s then Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox after Britain voted in a referendum to exit the EU.

Sitharaman said formal talks on a bilateral free trade agreement could only begin once the UK formally exited the EU.

Bilateral trade between the two countries stood at $14 billion in 2015-16, as compared to $14.33 billion in 2014-15. (IANS)

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Air Quality Still Needs Improvement: EU

:Air pollution is an invisible killer and we need to step up our efforts to address the causes."

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air pollution, Pollution, pollutants
In this Sept. 19, 2018 photo steam and cooling towers of a lignite power plant are reflected in a pond in Peitz, eastern Germany. VOA

The European Union’s environmental agency says air pollution is slowly improving across the continent but still exceeds the bloc’s limits and guidelines from the U.N. health agency.

The European Environment Agency on Monday issued its 2018 report on air quality and said emissions from road traffic, agriculture, energy production, industry and households are churning out pollutants like particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone.

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Agency head Hans Bruyninckx said: “Air pollution is an invisible killer and we need to step up our efforts to address the causes.”
He said Europe must “redouble its efforts to reduce emissions caused by transport, energy and agriculture and invest in making them cleaner and more sustainable.”

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The report was based on more than 2,500 monitoring stations across Europe in 2016, the latest available data. (VOA)