India, Australia to intensify talks on Free Trade Agreement over next two months

By Kallol Bhattacherjee
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with their Australian counterparts during the 2+2 meeting, in New Delhi. (Source: PTI)

India and Australia are likely to intensify discussion for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) over the next two months. Informed sources said here a substantial round of discussion will take place during the visit of Dan Tehan, Australian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Investment, likely to take place during the last week of September or early October.

The FTA — Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) — was taken up during the “2+2” discussion between Foreign and Defence Ministers last week. Foreign Minister Marise Payne had said here India and Australia were working towards “early harvest” of the trade deal.

Both sides are reportedly working on a December 2021 time-frame on making significant progress on the deal.

A joint statement issued at the end of the inaugural “2+2” dialogue. said, “The Ministers appreciated the renewed commitment and progress made by both sides to achieve an early harvest announcement by December 2021 on an interim agreement to liberalise and deepen bilateral trade in goods and services, and pave the way for an early conclusion of a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.”

Global trade interest

The document referred to the trade deal as part of the CSP — Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The trade agreement has been under discussion at least since 2011. The move was interpreted as Australia’s attempt to diversify its global trade interest, away from China. However, it did not materialise because of multiple factors including disagreement over tariff barriers and market access.

The FTA also came up during a virtual meeting last month between Mr. Tehan and his Indian counterpart Piyush Goyal in which both Ministers aimed for an “interim agreement” by December. The interim agreement can pave the way for the final CECA.


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