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‘FTA with re-emerging India a priority for Australia’

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New Delhi, April 24:

With India’s re-emergence at the global “centre of gravity”, Australia is giving highest priority in 2015 to concluding a free trade agreement (FTA) with it, Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said on Friday.

trade“Concluding the comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) is Australia’s highest trade and investment priority this year and negotiations which are back on track with Minister (Nirmala) Sitharaman, should be complete by end of 2015,” Robb, who is here attending the Global Exhibition on Services told reporters.

“We have arrived at the point where we see the pathway to conclusion,” he added of the longstanding negitiations.

“Both prime ministers (Narendra Modi and Tony Abbot) support the CECA completion by 2015-end, given India’s re-emergence at the centre of gravity in political and economic terms,” the Australian minister said.

“If you take the last two thousand years of history, for 18 centuries India was at the centre of gravity in global affairs. It was only the 200 years (of colonialism) that it was eclipsed.

“India is back now at the centre of gravity in global affairs, along with two, three others, of course,” he added.

The seventh round of negotiations on CECA have just been concluded and the two sides are striving to reach a consensus on issues related to tariff, market access and preservation of competitive positions.

“CECA is about the two-way transfer of investment, technology and expertise,” the minister said.

Describing how Australian companies have service providing experience of over a 150 years in a country where services account for 75 percent of the GDP, Robb said the current level of business exchange bwetween both countries still left much to be desired.

“There are less than 200 Australian businesses in India, and they are more in trading. But in Dubai alone, there are 350 Australian companies. We are in every major economy. But we have to create an agreement which removes the roadblocks,” Robb said.

“Indian businesses want issues to be cleaned up by Australia to do the business, while Australian businesses want similar action by the Indian government. We are working on all these issues for a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement,” he added.

On Australia commencing uranium supplies to India, Robb said the government-to-government agreement had been signed but there are certain technical requirements.

“The Australian treaty committee has finished the process as required under the law. One or two tracking issues are there, but we are not far away. Canada, US have recently signed agreements with India, so if they’ve done we can’t be far away,” he said. (IANS)