By Carolyn Cohn and Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – Insurers see China and India as top priority non-EU markets once Britain leaves the European Union and want bilateral trade deals to ensure those states relax restrictions on foreign ownership, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said on Thursday.
The ABI said it was offering Britain’s finance ministry and Department for International Trade a “template” for dealing with financial services that could be inserted into trade deals.
After Britain leaves the EU, it will have to negotiate new trade agreements with many countries.
The template is part of lobbying efforts by insurers which worry that their concerns could be overshadowed by the banking industry as they seek to win the ear of government in trade negotiations during and after Brexit.
“Our industry has needs and priorities that are different to other parts of the financial services sector,” Hugh Savill, director of regulation at the ABI, said in a statement.
The EU does not currently have trade deals with China or India. North America and Europe make up the bulk of Britain’s international business in general insurance.
ABI’s proposals include relaxing foreign ownership rules so insurers can take controlling stakes in companies in those countries, looser regulations on data transfer and the inclusion of pension and savings products in any trade deals.
Major British insurers such as Prudential and Standard Life Aberdeen have joint ventures in China and India.
Foreign firms cannot now take majority stakes in insurers in those countries, although China has said it plans to relax the rules.
Britain’s insurance and long-term savings sector is the fourth largest in the world, the ABI said. It contributes 35 billion pounds to the UK economy annually and employs 324,000 people.
“Since a number of our members have been operating internationally for decades, we have access to unique expertise to help shape the terms and conditions of future trade deals that would apply to us,” said Savill, a former trade negotiator.
(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn and Huw Jones; Editing by Edmund Blair)