Greg Hands, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, UK
To support drive to create more affordable housing across Britain
London, August 10:
The UK government is pushing for Indian investment into the country’s real estate sector, beyond London, to support its drive to create more affordable housing across the country, among other things.
“We have a diverse set of opportunities for inward investment from India. We are particularly keen on getting investment beyond London — there are opportunities in real estate, infrastructure, particularly energy infrastructure,” Greg Hands, UK’s Minister of State for Trade and Investment, told BusinessLine on Thursday.
“I think Indian investors could play a big role in our affordable housing agenda,” he added.
While foreign real-estate investors, including from China and Qatar, have made big inroads into the UK market, the country has to date seen limited investment (beyond private investments in housing or hotels) from India, with the exception of Lodha Group, which has two luxury housing projects in London and has expressed its confidence about moving to new price categories and beyond the residential sector.
The UK Department for International Trade held an event at the House of Lords for delegates of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India, (CREDAI) gathered in the city for their annual conference, at which it highlighted infrastructure and property development opportunities in northern England and the Midlands, including in and around Birmingham.
“Real-estate trends across the UK continue to be strong, from offices in London to logistics in the Midlands to urban regeneration projects in Edinburgh,” he told the meeting. “Investors from across the UK are seeing stable and profitable opportunities and we are determined to see businesses seize these opportunities as we move forward towards Brexit.”
With the next round of JETCO (UK-India Joint Economic Trade Committee) talks due to take place here later this year, Hands expressed his confidence in efforts to boost trade and investment between the two nations.
“JETCO is a very practical way of reducing obstacles to each other’s markets… We go through a series of specific sectors and the actual obstacles to doing trade and investment between our two countries. We’d like to focus on the services industry and getting access. India is an enormous market and getting UK financial and legal services better access is hugely important to us… These issues will be a key part of those talks as well as the trade working group,” he said, referring to the joint working group on trade, involving business and government, set up to look at opportunities and obstacles to post-Brexit trade, including the potential for a free trade agreement.
Free trade agreement
“It’s too early to tell what a future free trade agreement between India and the UK could look like; so its even more important to focus today on removing and reducing trade barriers between the two countries to ensure the investment flow continues and the export flow. The UK has a lot of capability of great interest to India, around smart city technology. I remain very optimistic that the commercial relationship between the two countries will flourish and flow in the years to come.”
He said that after the referendum last year, Britain had continued to attract large amounts of FDI, including from the US tech giants, Europe, Japan and India. “The picture since the Brexit vote has been very strong and we need to maintain that. The UK has a good future: the Brexit talks have only just started and there will be issues and complications along the way. But for both sides, there is a strong interest to have a strong trade agreement to keep trade flowing.”
Hands acknowledged that challenges remained in bilateral relations, including around India’s concerns about visas and Britain’s around those who overstayed their visas in India. “We recognise there is a great deal of interest around visas… It’s important to note that two-thirds of all work visas issued by the UK go to Indian nationals, which presents a really good picture. India is the first country to be added to the registered traveller scheme, which is an important way of quickly getting through immigration barriers. I am confident we have a good system in place; but we obviously want to make sure we talk to our counterparts in India to make sure it can be smooth as it possibly can.”
(This article was published on August 10, 2017)
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