India, Australia likely to wrap up $100 billion trade pact by December

New Delhi: India and Australia pledged to conclude a comprehensive trade deal by the end of 2023, eyeing $100 billion in bilateral commerce that will seek to deepen engagement in areas such as critical minerals.

A joint commission comprising commerce minister Piyush Goyal and his Australian counterpart Don Farrell reviewed trade between the countries. That followed the first India-Australia summit on Friday between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Anthony Albanese in New Delhi.

“The ECTA (Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement) was the first stage of our economic engagement,” Goyal told reporters at a joint briefing with Farrell on Saturday. “We are now entering phase 2 of our discussions, where we are looking at a much wider ambit of subjects and taking this into a CECA (Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement).”

India and Australia implemented the ECTA on December 29 last year.

After the summit, Albanese said both sides were looking at firming up the CECA by 2023. Farrell is accompanying the Australian Prime Minister on the visit.

Goyal said that committing to a deadline was “dangerous,” as this could lead to compromises, but added that both countries are committed to speeding up negotiations. “We would love to do that,” he said.

Areas of Interest
“We would work to engage in the same spirit as ECTA and hope for quick outcomes without compromising on its quality,” said Goyal.

Farrell said critical minerals, along with space technology and opportunities in the digital sector, will form key areas of the proposed trade deal. Australia has all the critical minerals needed to build batteries for electric vehicles, he said.

In the first month of the ECTA coming into force, Australia had shipped goods worth $2.5 billion to India and the $100-billion trade target is achievable, he added. India-Australia trade was $25 billion in FY22, up from $12.3 billion in the preceding year.

While Australia has some “very” fine technologies, the best educational institutes and sporting capabilities, India can offer much in terms of its talent pool, manufacturing base and startup ecosystem, Goyal said.

Resolutions Ahead
Asked about Australia’s interest in farm trade, Goyal said there are several areas of mutual interest that are being considered by the agriculture ministries of both sides, including the resolution of issues over sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards.

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