London: India's foreign direct investment (FDI) norms in the multi-brand retail sector are a very well thought out policy which are unlikely to change any time soon, commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal said on Tuesday.
Speaking on the sidelines of an India Day event organised by the UK's Department for International Trade (DIT), the minister said the 49 per cent FDI threshold in multi-brand retail must be respected in letter and spirit by all foreign brands.
Britain's prime ministerial frontrunner Boris Johnson had recently expressed his disappointment at UK retailers like Sainsbury's and Waitrose not being able to set up base in India and had said he would like to see India opening up to more of our great brands.
"On multi-brand retail we are very clear as of now it's a 49 per cent restriction for foreign investment," Goyal said, when Johnson's recent intervention was put to him.
"It's a very well thought out policy, recognising that the strength of Indian small retailers to serve the people of India across the length and breadth of the country is very deeply rooted in the culture of the villages of India. So, for the present, we would not like to change that," he said.
"I think companies which want to come into India will have to look at restricting the foreign ownership to 49 per cent if they are looking multi-brand retail. And we would like them to ensure that in letter and in spirit," Goyal said.
The minister, however, highlighted the significant concessions and liberalisation planned for the single-brand retail sector so that more international companies can set up stores in India and expand their business.
"They can also meet their requirements of 30 per cent domestic sourcing through their export requirements and integrate their global chains so that it's a win-win both for India and the single brand retailer coming into the country, he said.
Goyal, who is in the UK on a three-day visit concluding on Tuesday, addressed the India-UK Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) on Monday to explore growth opportunities and address barriers to trade.
In reference to the key outcomes of JETCO, the minister said that he has observed an enthusiastic approach within the UK government to make the best out of the opportunity that will come out of Brexit.
"While we recognise that till Brexit happens, the UK is constrained to be able to finalise things or to move forward with any bilateral arrangement with any country," he said.
If we can continue this comprehensive dialogue, where the larger gamut of issues are on the table now for the next 12-15 months, we will be well poised before Brexit to be able to make some significant announcements soon after Brexit and to be able to expand this relationship and take it to significantly larger levels.
Goyal, who is also minister of railways, addressed the India Day event organised to showcase bilateral investment prospects to highlight the potential India and the UK have to offer an "unbeatable cost competitive" partnership.
Asked about some of the missed opportunities in the bilateral ties recently flagged by a UK parliamentary panel, the minister said that he believes that Brexit would result in addressing some of those gaps.
"Ultimately, many of these things could not have been done earlier when you look at the EU as a whole, not being able to come to terms with the requirements of India and EU together. But between the UK and India we can certainly resolve many of these issues. I see post-2020 Brexit, many missed opportunities can all become reality," he said.