Australia hopes to finalize free trade pact with India this year

New Delhi, Mar 10 (EFE).- Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese Friday expressed the hope to finalize an ambitious but stalled-in-negotiations free trade agreement with India this year.

The pact has hit a roadblock even as the two sides have been negotiating it for over a decade.

“We agreed on an early conclusion of our ambitious comprehensive economic cooperation agreement as soon as possible. I am hopeful that we will be able to finalize that this year,” Albanese told reporters in a joint news conference with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.

Albanese is on his first visit to India as prime minister to mark the 75th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two nations.

The Australian prime minister said the deal, which New Delhi and Canberra began negotiating in 2011 before calling off talks in 2015, would create “new employment opportunities” and raise “living standards for the people of both Australia and India.”

The two sides restarted the negotiations on the free trade agreement in 2020 amid growing pressure from China in the region.

India, Australia, the United States, and Japan form the so-called “Quad” grouping that was shaped in 2005 as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.

The Quad alliance has gained significance with the member eying deeper trade and defense ties in the face of rising Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Australian prime minister pointed to the “historic” Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) that entered into force last December as an example of the closer relationship between India and Australia.

Albanese remarked that the agreement “eliminated tariffs on more than 85 percent of Australian goods exported to India, benefiting Indian consumers.”

The agreement enabled Australia to secure access to the fast-growing Indian market of more than 1.4 billion people and gave Australian businesses opportunities for trade diversification.

India’s tariff commitments have opened access for Australia’s exporters of products, including critical minerals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, lentils, seafood, sheepmeat, horticulture, and wine.

The security situation in the Indo-Pacific in the face of China’s alleged expansionist idea also figured in the talks between Modi and Albanese.

The Australian prime minister welcomed “significant and ambitious progress on the defense and security pillar of our relationship.”

Modi said security cooperation figured prominently in the bilateral ties with Australia as the two countries discussed the defense situation in the Indo-Pacific. EFE


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