India-Australia free trade pact can deepen ties

Our Bureau Chennai | Updated on March 11, 2013 Published on March 11, 2013

Extending friendly hand: Patrick Suckling, Australian High Commissioner in India and C. Sarat Chandran, Director, Indo-Australian Chamber of Commerce, at the 23rd annual day of the Indo-Australian Chamber of Commerce, in Chennai on Monday. — Photo: Bijoy Ghosh   -  Business Line

Australia is eager to negotiate a comprehensive economic partnership (essentially a free trade agreement) to intensify and diversify the trade partnership with India, said Patrick Suckling, Australian High Commissioner. There is strong political commitment on this and four rounds of negotiations have been held, said Suckling, addressing the 23rd annual day of the Indo-Australian Chamber of Commerce in the city.

Goods tariffs have already been exchanged and services tariffs will be discussed soon, he said. A fifth round of negotiations will be held in May in Australia. Bilateral trade between the two countries stands at $22 billion and has the potential to double in a few years. Last year, India invested $11 billion in Australia. Indian exports to Australia doubled to $3 billion, in the last few years.

“Economic relations will be the bedrock of the relationship growing forward,” said Suckling. Four top Australian banks, infrastructure, education, agri- business and biotech companies from Australia are in India. Indian interest in Australia encompasses aircraft technology, medical, IT and education, he said.

Trade agenda

The G20 forum of which both India and Australia are members is looking to promote a quick economic recovery. “We are working closely with India on a sustainable global growth and trade agenda.” The high commissioner said security cooperation, especially maritime security, will also be deepened between the two countries.

Australia is committed to negotiating safeguards with India to sell uranium, which is currently not exported as India is not a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty, said Suckling.

Safeguarding Indians

People to people relations are also growing, said Suckling. Around 450,000 people of Indian origin are in Australia. Indians are the fastest growing migrant group. Indians also comprise the second largest student population, after Chinese students. (In 2012, there were 55,000 Indian students in Australia).

Published on March 11, 2013
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