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India, Australia may conclude trade pact within 2 months

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2016,15:18 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

Sydney | Expecting to conclude a free trade agreement (FTA) with India within two months, a high level Australian delegation will visit New Delhi next week to iron out the pending issues.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is on a 4-day visit to Australia, today said the talks on FTA are at negotiation levels and being dealt by the Commerce Ministry. Its not fair to comment on that as they are at negotiations level. They are at fairly advanced stage, said Jaitley, who was meeting Andrew Robb, former trade minister and now Australia’s special envoy for trade.

Jaitley said Robb will visit New Delhi next week to hold talks on FTA with the Commerce Ministry. Robb confirmed his upcoming visit, saying that the FTA deal conclusion could happen within two months if there was political will on both side. I think we have reached a point in negotiations where it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement, but I need to test that with my counterparts next week, Robb said.

The talks for a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) also known as FTA between India and Australia were started in 2011 to provide fillip to both trade and investments between the two countries. Several rounds of negotiations have been completed for liberalising trade and services regime besides removing non-tariff barriers and encouraging investments.

Last month Robb had said that he and Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman took stock of the progress of talks in Nairobi in December last year. We sat down in Nairobi, we had a long session with their officials and the minister and we took stock at where we were and how much longer we could expect and we both agreed that and the officials concurred that in the first half of the year (2016) we can finish this, Robb had told then.

Australia is pushing for tariff reduction in dairy, fresh fruit, pharma, meats and wines. On the other hand, India wants zero duty on auto parts, textiles, and fresh fruits, including mangoes and greater access in services sector. The bilateral trade stood at USD 13 billion in 2014-15 as against USD 12.12 billion in the previous fiscal.

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