Goyal, Tehan hope to conclude negotiations on India-Australia FTA by end of 2022

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on September 30, 2021

Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and his Australian counterpart Dan Tehan addressing the media in New Delhi   -  PTI

Interim agreement likely to be in place by Christmas

Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and his Australian counterpart Dan Tehan have targetted to conclude the bilateral free trade agreement talks by end of 2022 and have in place an interim agreement by Christmas this year.

“The interim agreement can cover a number of areas including goods, services, investment, government procurement, rules of origin, energy, standards...We hope to exchange our offers by end of October,” Tehan said at a joint media briefing after his meeting with Goyal in New Delhi on Thursday.

Once the free trade pact, formally known as the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) is in place, both countries hope to double their engagement in all areas, not just trade, in a short period, the Minister added.

‘Ambitious timeline’

India was Australia’s seventh-largest trading partner and sixth-largest export market in 2020, driven by coal and international education, according to the Australian government. India’s total trade with Australia in 2020-21 was $12.29 billion.

Goyal said that the ambitious timelines had been set for the trade pacts and the negotiating teams will start work immediately on achieving them. “In the interim agreement we will go for the low hanging fruits,” he said.

India and Australia had started talks on a CECA in 2011, but the negotiations were suspended in 2015. Goyal said that it was because both India and Australia were then negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, that included the ten-member ASEAN and six others. India subsequently walked out the RCEP mainly due to concerns about China. The negotiations were also facing some problems at the time as India was not willing to meet Australia’s demands for greater market access for farm products while its own demands of visa liberalisation for workers were being thwarted by Australia.

‘Fresh perspective’

The Australian Minister said that he and Goyal were bringing fresh eyes and fresh perspective into the negotiations and they were looking at the whole spectrum of opportunities available.

In June 2020, as part of the Joint Statement on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between India and Australia, Prime Ministers Scott Morrison and Narendra Modi decided to re-engage on a bilateral CECA while suitably considering earlier bilateral discussions, where a mutually agreed way forward can be found.

Published on September 30, 2021

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