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Scotsman will flow from Glasgow

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Scotsman will flow from Glasgow

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Scotch whiskey won’t exactly be on the table when the Prime Ministers of India and Britain meet in Glasgow for their retreat meeting, to put it on diplomats. But the British will look for signs from Narendra Modi’s decidedly Scots-free portion of the table for a sign that it could flow into India the way they would like.

Scotch matters: It is certainly Britain’s most important commodity as it begins talks with India for a limited trade deal that the two countries hope to conclude in March next year. This is intended to be the deal to harvest what Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal described as the deal to pluck the ripe fruit.

It’s hard to think of another product from Britain that India can’t buy cheaper and probably better elsewhere. This is the only British or Scottish product that only Scotland produces; Chinese copycats haven’t quite figured it out yet.

Indian copycats haven’t either, even if a Scotch Whiskey Association manager in India somehow commented that more Scotch is drunk in India than is produced in all of Scotland. Indian makers now make a whiskey that some connoisseurs find better than Scotch, but it is not Scotch.

It is no rarity that led British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to insist on bringing more Scotch to India with lower tariffs on almost every Indo-British occasion that came along, including a visit to a gurdwara.

The two prime ministers will not drink or speak Scottish together, but Boris Johnson has only to mention trade, and that word will translate into Scottish immediately. If Boris Johnson could speak Scottish in a gurdwara, he would surely do so in Glasgow, with none other than the Indian prime minister as an audience.
Today, more than 50 million bottles of Scotch whiskey are exported to India each year. It says something about the Indian love of whiskey that this export still represents only 2 percent of the Indian market. This, says the Scotch Whiskey Association, is due in part to the 150 percent tariff applied by the central government in India.

The Scotch Whiskey Association states: “Ensuring better access to the Indian market is the Association’s number one business priority.” He has put particular pressure on Boris Johnson to raise this issue in the course of a meeting with Modi.

Britain is seeking at least three times that level of export through the round of trade negotiations that is due to begin. That would still make Scotch only make up 6 percent of the Indian market, but given India’s whiskey consumption volumes, the Scotch Whiskey Association would drink for that for a long time.

Piyush Goyal options

Trade Minister Piyush Goyal has promised the British substantially greater access to the Indian Scotch whiskey market, and with reduced tariffs. The guarantee was given to Liz Truss when she was Secretary of Commerce. As Foreign Secretary she now remains an influential voice throughout business talks.

Truss spoke again about trade during his recent visit to India aboard the Royal Navy’s Carrier Strike Group – the British have not missed an opportunity to introduce more Scotch whiskey to India. Given Goyal’s promise, the upcoming conversations face two questions. First, how much more Scotch to let in the reduced tariffs at what level. Second, what India will get in return.

The second is proving complicated. One of the main demands of India is the ease of movement of more Indian professionals to the UK. The UK has a particular shortage of nurses today. This marks a strange bargaining position for India: We will let in more whiskey if you take our nurses and take good care of them.

Officials have also been talking about obtaining concessions for further export of Indian textiles to the UK. It’s hard to think what kinds of textiles from India Britain are starving for that can match the Indians’ thirst for Scotch whiskey. Bureaucratic negotiations, rather than those led by companies, could generate a deal in which India could turn out to be a big loser.

Talks towards a more comprehensive free trade deal must begin once the British can phase out whiskey, or get it on the road. For the British, the position is clear: without whiskey, there is no deal.

– London Eye is a weekly column by CNBC-TV18’s Sanjay Suri, taking a look at the unusual businesses in and around London.

(Edited by : Thomas Abraham)


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Scotsman will flow from Glasgow

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