Australian Economy

Australia, India start FTA negotiations

NEW DELHI : Indian and Australian negotiators have met for talks toward a full-fledged free trade agreement even as a mini-pact remains unratified by the Australian parliament.

The talks for a comprehensive deal assume significance as it will be handled by the new government in Australia led by the Labour Party which came to power in May, a month after the previous government signed the mini-trade deal with India.

“Australian and Indian Chief Negotiators met in Delhi on 26 September for talks towards a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA),”Australian High Commission said in response to a query.

Queries sent to the ministry of commerce and industry remained unanswered at press time.

Amit Yadav, additional secretary, department of commerce, led the Indian side while the Australian negotiators were drawn from a delegation of 106 companies which visited India this week to explore supply partnerships with Indian companies. The Australian companies will also scout for opportunities in minerals, digital health, infrastructure and agri-food.

On the mini-trade deal, Australia’s trade and investment commissioner Denise Eaton told Mint that general elections in Australia delayed the negotiations and the ratification of the mini-trade deal called the India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA). She added that the ECTA is expected to come into effect by February next year.

“ECTA is really only the start. Negotiators are part of the delegation that has come. So when that’s ratified this will come into place. It will come into effect right about January-February next year. It’s just the start. There are more negotiations to continue to build and strengthen our relationships. There has been a little bit of a gap and that is mainly because we’ve got a new government. But with our new government in play now and particularly in the critical mineral space.. our new government has set some very ambitious targets for climate change and emissions reductions very much like the Indian market.”

A free trade pact with Australia is expected to double the trade with India in the next 5 years as about 95% of Indian goods would get zero duty access from day one of the deal coming into effect.

Commerce minister Piyush Goyal had said that although talks had started about 10 years back, they came to a halt after the UPA government decided to negotiate the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). However, after the current NDA government decided not to go ahead with RCEP, free trade talks resumed with Australia in September 2021, he had said.

The Australian delegation to India this week is looking to explore commercial and economic collaboration in the critical minerals such as lithium, graphite, cobalt, nickel and titanium. Under ECTA, India has either eliminated or reduced tariffs on minerals. India and Australia are partners in the trilateral Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) arrangement along with Japan which seeks to enhance the resilience of supply chains in the Indo-Pacific.

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