India, Australia underline need to finalize free trade agreement

New Delhi, Mar 21 (EFE).- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, underscored Monday the need for both countries to soon conclude a free trade agreement.

Negotiations for the free trade agreement between the two countries have been underway for over a decade but has gained momentum recently thanks to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), a defense alliance between the two countries, Japan and the United States.

“We have made significant progress in our Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, CECA, in a very short time,” Modi said during a virtual meet between the two leaders.

The Indian prime minister claimed that the conclusion of the agreement will give a boost to the joint economic security of India and Australia.

Morrison, for his part, also referred to the agreement under negotiation, underlining that the recent progress “reflects the ambition that we share and we hold for our relationship” since the two countries reinforced ties in 2020.

“We’ll redouble our efforts, as I said, on our interim Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement to unlock new opportunities and benefits for both our economies,” said the Australian prime minister.

New Delhi and Canberra began negotiating the free trade agreement in May 2011, but the process was suspended in 2015 after nine rounds.

Negotiations resumed in 2020, in the face of China’s growing pressure on the region and the strengthening of ties among Quad members.

India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said during a post-meeting press conference that the interaction between the two leaders covered a wide range of issues.

“One important area of discussion and cooperation was defense and security,” said Shringla.

Both Modi and Morrison referred to the Quad alliance and its objective of maintaining a “free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific” against China’s alleged expansionist goals.

Quad leaders met in early March to assess the implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ensure that such events “never occur here in the Indo-Pacific,” Morrison recalled. EFE


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