Australian High Commissioner Harinder Sidhu on Wednesday said that Australia is committed to ink a high-quality free trade agreement (FTA) with India as “unilateral trade measures and having commercially meaningful bilateral free trade agreements matter”.
India is Australia’s fifth largest trading partner. Total two-way trade grew by 27.7% between 2016 and 2017.
“I want to stress that Australia remains committed to concluding a high-quality FTA with India,” Sidhu said while elaborating on the country’s India Economic Strategy.
In commissioning the strategy, Australia wanted to start a conversation about an economic relationship that went beyond discussion of negotiations toward a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), which is the formal name of the trade agreement.
The strategy sets a number of ambitious goals for Australian government and business- lifting India into Australia’s top three export markets, making India the third largest destination in Asia for Australian outward investment and bringing India into the inner circle of Australia’s strategic partnerships, with people-to-people ties as close as any in Asia.
However, Sidhu cautioned that the bandwidth for contemplating a three-dimensional economic relationship between Australia and India has often been overtaken by the intense focus on FTA negotiations
“We are launching this report at a worrisome time for international trade. The threat of a global trade war is becoming very real,” she said.
The report identifies ten sectors where Indian demand and Australian supply can come together. Education is a ‘flagship’ sector, resources, agribusiness, and tourism are ‘lead sectors’ besides six sectors where there are complementarities between the two economies: infrastructure, health, financial services, sport, and science and innovation.
The ten states identified as the most prospective for Australia’s engagement are: Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and the National Capital Region of Delhi.
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