India hopes to conclude free trade deal with Britain this year, finance minister says

G20 Finance Ministers' and Central Bank governors' meeting at Gandhinagar

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -India hopes to conclude talks over a free trade deal with Britain by the end of this year, India's finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Friday, amid consensus on broad contours of the pact meant to boost economic growth and jobs.

Sitharaman spoke as Britain's trade minister Kemi Badenoch visits India for a G20 meeting, after free trade talks have gathered momentum in recent months.

"I won't be wrong in saying a free trade agreement with UK is very close," Sitharaman said at an industry conference in New Delhi.

While there isn't a deadline to close the deal, India is committed to "a good outcome at the fastest possible speed", its trade minister Piyush Goyal said at a separate press conference on Friday.

In a panel session at the B20 summit in New Delhi, Badenoch said Goyal had promised her the FTA would be "the most ambitious free trade agreement".

"You can see him smiling because he's just on the cusp of delivering this for us," she said.

On Thursday, Badenoch had told reporters that the deal was in the "final stages" and she was optimistic of a mutually beneficial deal, but she couldn't give a deadline as the hardest bits of negotiations often came at the end.

India sees a British trade deal as crucial as it aims to become a bigger exporter, while the UK, keen to expand trade opportunities after leaving the European Union, would get wider access for its whisky, premium cars and legal services.

Still to be agreed are issues such as intellectual property rights, rules of origin and an investment treaty, and campaigners urged Britain not to demand any provisions that might undermine India's generic drugs industry and make its products more expensive.

"We urge you to change course and drop the UK's demands for stricter intellectual property provisions," a letter to Badenoch signed by 120 health and development organisations said.

(Reporting by Nikunj Ohri and Shivangi Acharya; writing by Alistair Smout; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Giles Elgood)