The business minister is to launch trade talks with India, marking the start of a world tour aimed at drawing up a blueprint for Britain’s role in the global economy outside the European Union.
Sajid Javid will hold preliminary talks with Indian government ministers in Delhi on Friday, marking the start of what is expected to be years of negotiations to establish new trade deals with individual countries. These bilateral deals will replace agreements the EU has with more than 50 countries.
Javid’s visit to India comes after George Osborne met a Chinese government delegation in London on Thursday and promised to foster “stronger trade ties” with the world’s second largest economy. The chancellor is undertaking a four-day trip to China later this month for the G20 finance ministers’ meeting and will visit several cities to promote UK-Chinese relations.
The government said it plans to hire up to 300 staff in a bid to address a shortage of trade negotiators capable of forging closer economic ties to dozens of other countries.
Javid said: “Following the referendum result, my absolute priority is making sure the UK has the tools it needs to continue to compete on the global stage.
“That is why I am in India today to launch these initial trade discussions. There is a strong bilateral trade relationship between our two countries and I am determined that we build on this.”
The discussions kick off a schedule of trips to the US, China, Japan and South Korea over the next few months, as Javid starts the process of refashioning the UK’s trade ties.
Government sources said talks were unlikely to go into great detail but would provide an early platform for future negotiations. Javid said he would use the discussions to outline the government’s “vision for what the UK’s future trade relationship might look like”.
The foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said earlier in the week that the UK had a shortage of trade negotiators and may need to hire staff from abroad to get the necessary expertise.
Osborne met Chinese officials including the ambassador, Liu Xiaoming, for talks about future trade relations. Treasury sources said there had been “productive discussions on investment, financial services and fostering stronger trading ties,” aimed at extending a “golden era” of partnership on trade.
The UK was the third largest investor in India between April 2000 and September 2015, pouring $22.5bn (£17.4bn) into the country, while Indian investment is also hugely important to the UK.
Foreign direct investment from India created 7,730 jobs between 2014 and 2015, according to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, while bilateral trade between the two countries was £16.5bn last year.
One of the biggest Indian investors in the UK is conglomerate Tata, which owns Jaguar Land Rover and struggling steel firm Tata Steel UK.
During his Indian trip Javid will also meet Tata board members on Saturday to discuss the company’s efforts to find a buyer for its British steel business, which includes the blast furnaces at Port Talbot in South Wales. The sale process is understood to have been put on hold amid the economic uncertainty created by the vote to leave the EU.
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