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India & Australia vow free trade agreement by 2022, interim deal by Christmas

Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and his Australian counterpart Dan Tehan announce FTA target during latter's India visit, say interim deal will cover areas of immediate interest.

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New Delhi: India and Australia will finalise their free trade agreement — officially called the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) and in the pipeline since July 2011 — by the end of 2022.

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and his Australian counterpart, Trade Minister Dan Tehan, made the announcement at a press conference in Delhi Thursday. Tehan is currently on a three-day visit to India.

This comes a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison met during the first in-person Quad summit in Washington.

“What we have agreed today is to make sure to conclude a free trade agreement (FTA) between Australia and India by the end of 2022. This will include an interim agreement, which we will seek to finalise by Christmas,” said Tehan.

“Once the intention for a full-fledged FTA or a comprehensive economic partnership is declared, announced and agreed upon formally, then an interim agreement will cover areas of immediate interest,” added Goyal.

Calling it an “ambitious” project, Tehan added that the agreement will cover goods, services and investment, and the two sides will begin discussing government procurement, energy and resources, and logistics and standards.

The two ministers added that both Canberra and New Delhi will bring offers to the table on areas of specific interest by October end.

Also read: ‘Australia, India don’t want to constrain China’: PM Morrison says Beijing can be Quad ‘partner’

‘CECA trade potential over $52 billion’

Asked what the trade potential of CECA is expected to be once finalised, Tehan said the current trade figures, around $26 billion, are likely to double in the following years.

Negotiations on CECA were suspended in September 2015 as the Modi government launched an exercise to review all the trade negotiations that began under the previous UPA regime.

Last June, however, both prime ministers released a joint statement to revive talks on the bilateral trade agreement.

On 26 August this year, the countries agreed to speed up negotiations and pave the way for a comprehensive agreement.

Asked what sectors could benefit from the trade agreement, Tehan Thursday said, “The complementarity between our economies is so great. Australian wool, merino wool, can go into the best textiles in India and those textiles can be exported to the rest of the world.”

“India has a lot of products which are of particular interest to Australia. Similar to merino wool, you have pashmina shawls from Jammu and Kashmir,” Goyal added.

(Edited by Manasa Mohan)

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