LONDON (AP) — Britain has announced 1 billion pounds ($1.4 billion) of new trade and investment with India, including a deal with the Serum Institute of India to aid in the development of vaccines against COVID-19 and other diseases.
The announcement came before a video meeting Tuesday between U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, who are expected to agree on deeper cooperation that could pave the way for a free-trade agreement between their countries.
The British government is seeking to increase trade with countries outside the European Union following the U.K.’s departure from the bloc. It said the trade and investment deals announced late Monday are expected to create more than 6,500 jobs in the U.K.
The package includes a 240 million-pound ($332 million) investment in the U.K. by the Serum Institute, the world’s biggest vaccine-maker, that will support clinical trials, research and possibly vaccine production, the British government said in a statement. The Serum Institute, in collaboration with Codagenix, has started early-stage trials of a one-dose nasal vaccine against COVID-19.
“Like every aspect of the U.K.-India relationship, the economic links between our countries make our people stronger and safer,’’ Johnson said in a statement. “Each and every one of the more than 6,500 jobs we have announced today will help families and communities build back from coronavirus and boost the British and Indian economies.’’
Trade between the U.K. and India totals about 23 billion pounds ($31.9 billion) annually, less than 5% of Britain’s trade with the EU.
Britain’s long ties to India have come to the fore in recent days. In the U.K., home to about 1.4 million of Indian descent, many have watched with horror at the crisis and sought ways to help from afar.
Britain added India to its “red list” of countries on April 23, banning arrivals for anyone from India except for U.K. citizens and residents, adding to a sense of isolation and helplessness for many in Britain who feel cut off from their loved ones at home.
One emergency appeal by the British Asian Trust, a charity founded by Prince Charles, has raised tens of thousands of pounds so far. The funds will go directly to the charity’s local partners to procure oxygen equipment for the seriously ill, both in large cities and more remote rural areas.