Economy

Australian Trade Minister Tehan to meet Goyal to speed-up free trade talks

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on September 23, 2021

Joint Ministerial Commission tentatively scheduled in New Delhi on September 30; virtual meetings on between officials to finalise early harvest package by end of December 2021

Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan will be in India next week to lend ‘momentum’ to the India-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks in a meeting with his Indian counterpart Piyush Goyal.

“Both India and Australia are keen to advance negotiations on the proposed FTA. We already have had several meetings of groups of officials dealing with various components of the pact. The Australian Minister’s visit will give further impetus to the on-going efforts,” an official close to the development told BusinessLine.

Tehan is likely to be in India on September 30-October 1 and the Joint Ministerial Conference is tentatively scheduled on September 30, sources said.

In an interaction with the media in Canberra on Wednesday, Tehan said that he was heading to India next week to see if greater momentum could be added to FTA talks with the country. “Prime Minister Modi’s government has begun promoting a free trade narrative and is seeking closer economic ties with like-minded nations, including Australia...While in India, I will seek to further advance our recent progress towards a FTA, or what is called the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, CECA,” he said.

‘Early harvest’

Both countries are committed to achieving an early harvest announcement on an interim agreement to liberalise and deepen bilateral trade in goods and services, and pave the way for an early conclusion of a full CECA, the Minister added. Tehan and Goyal had participated in a video conference on August 27 where the two decided to work on an early harvest package covering liberalisation of trade in limited items which would then pave the way for a CECA in goods, services and investments. The two set a timeline of concluding the early harvest package by December 31, 2021.

The timeline is ambitious but as both countries have engaged in intensive trade talks when the CECA was first launched in 2012, the past experience would help in the present negotiations, the official said. The earlier talks were discontinued in 2015 over differences in areas such as access for Australian farm products into Indian markets and level of visa liberalisation for Indian professionals in Australia.

‘Aware of limitations’

“Since negotiators from both sides are aware of the interest areas, sensitive areas and possible redlines of the other side, the present talks could gain from that,” the official said.

 

Total trade between India and Australia in 2020-21 was $12.29 billion. India’s exports to Australia were valued at $4.04 billion while imports were at $8.25 billion.

Published on September 23, 2021

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