India-Australia trade pact to help economic revival, boost relations: Modi

Our Bureau | Updated on: Mar 21, 2022

Australian PM expressed understanding of India’s position on Ukraine, says Shringla

Early conclusion of the India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) will be significant in boosting bilateral economic relations and ensuring economic revival and economic security, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said.

Modi, and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison, also supported increased cooperation between India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund and Australia’s Pension and Sovereign Fund, partnerships in the critical mining sector as well as in migration and mobility and collaboration in new energy technologies and new fuel sources. The two leaders participated in the second India-Australia virtual summit on Monday.

The two expressed serious concerns about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and pressed on the need for cessation of hostilities and violence.

“There has been tremendous progress in the CECA talks in a very short period of time,” the Indian PM noted in his opening remarks. “I am confident that a consensus will be reached soon on the remaining issues,” he added.

30-day target

Last month, Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan, had set a 30-day target to arrive at an interim or early harvest free trade detail with limited commitments. “The interim agreement is taking time as Australia wants most important sectors to be covered in the deal and it is difficult to arrive at a consensus on so many different areas,” a source tracking the matter told BusinessLine.

The 2022 Australian federal election scheduled in May could also be playing a role in slowing down free trade talks, the source said.

Morrison told reporters that the two Trade Ministers will be meeting soon and they had been tasked with being ambitious to see where the two countries could get to.

At a press briefing after the summit, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said that Morrison expressed understanding of India’s position on the issue of Ukraine, which reflected Australia’s situation and consideration. “Both leaders discussed serious concerns about the ongoing conflict and humanitarian situation in Ukraine and there was equal emphasis on the fact that international orders stand on the UN Charter on the rule of law and respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states,” Shringla said.

India, unlike its Quad partners – the US, Australia and Japan – has not directly criticised Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and this has caused some uneasiness between the countries.

Modi appreciated the fact that India and Australia had now decided to establish a mechanism of Annual Summits. “This will put in place a structure for regular review of our relationship,” he said.

Areas of co-operation

The PM also pointed out that over the last few years the two countries have closely cooperated in a multitude of areas such as trade and investment, defence and security, education and innovation and science and technology. “Our collaboration has also increased in other areas such as critical minerals, water management, renewable energy and Covid-19 research,” he said.

Shringla said that Australia has about $15 billion quantum of investment in India and India had about $ 12 billion investment in Australia, and both investments were growing steadily. “NIIF is an important area that has potential for significant investments in our infrastructure development,” he said. Australia also announced ₹1,500 crore worth of investments in India.

 A Letter of Intent was also signed between India & Australia to work towards concluding the migration & mobility partnership agreement. India’s total trade with Australia in 2020-21 was at $12.29 billion with exports at $4.04 billion and imports at $8.25 billion.

Published on March 21, 2022
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