Canberra, Australian Trade and Investment Minister Dan Tehan said that he will be in India next week during which he will seek to further advance the progress towards a bilateral free trade agreement, and that alongwith India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal both sides are seeking to make progress towards an interim deadline.
Tehan, addressing the National Press Club on Wednesday, said both countries are working towards “an agreement that aligns with our principles and encourages expanded trade and investment flows to the benefit of the economies and peoples of both countries”.
Tehan said he will be heading to India next week, “another partner with a mutual interest in an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific”.
“Two years from now, India, the world’s biggest democracy, is on track to become the world’s most populous nation.
“Backed by one million Indians turning 18 every month, rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, and a drive for technological innovation and digitisation, India’s economic story offers enormous promise.
“We all have a stake in India’s success,” Tehan said.
He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has begun promoting a free trade narrative and is seeking closer economic ties with like-minded nations, including Australia.
His remarks come as Prime Minister Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison are scheduled to hold talks during a bilateral engagement in Washington on Friday, on the sidelines of the Quad leaders’ summit.
He said for Australia there are significant growth opportunities in the areas of critical minerals, infrastructure, energy, technology, agriculture, education and space – “and it is these sectors we will place particular emphasis on in the Government’s soon-to-be-released update to Peter Varghese’s India Economic Strategy.”
“While in India, I will seek to further advance our recent progress towards a free trade agreement, or what is called the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, CECA.”
“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.”
“Piyush Goyal, the Indian Trade Minister, and myself are seeking to make progress towards an interim deadline. It’s an ambitious approach, and this meeting will be crucial, but it’s one that can be achieved if both sides are seeking a truly complementary agreement,” he added.
“We are working towards an agreement that aligns with our principles and encourages expanded trade and investment flows to the benefit of the economies and peoples of both countries.”
His India visit follows that of former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who was in India last month to hold discussions on taking forward the India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.
India is negotiating with Australia a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) covering trade in goods, services, investment and related issues.
Negotiations on the CECA were launched in May 2011, and have not taken off since 2015 after nine rounds.