India begins trade talks with Australia
India has launched negotiations for a free trade agreement with Australia days before Federal Trade Minister Craig Emerson is due to meet his Indian counterpart Anand Sharma in Canberra.
Emerson said the move is a milestone in the developing Australia-India relationship. “India is an enormous, rapidly expanding market for Australian businesses and negotiations for a high-quality trade deal are central to the Gillard Government’s wider plans for greater economic integration between our two countries.”
Australia hopes the deal will remove tariffs, broaden the base of merchandise trade, remove barriers to services trade, facilitate and encourage investment and address behind-the-border obstacles to trade.
India is Australia’s third-largest export market, buying $19.8 billion of Australian goods and services in 2009-10. Exports to the subcontinent have grown by an average of 22 percent per year during the past four years, despite diplomatic tensions.
India reacted strongly to a series of violent acts perpetrated against Indian students in Australia in 2009, with thousands taking to the streets. The Indian Government also objects to Australia’s refusal to export uranium to India. Australia does not export uranium to nations that haven’t signed the United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
However, Emerson hopes a free trade deal will strengthen the Australia-India relationship, in line with goals for economic integration set out by Indian Prime Minster Manmohan Singh and then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. The pair set out a series of relational objectives in the Australia-India Strategic Partnership during Rudd’s first visit to the country in mid-November 2009.
Emerson will meet Sharma at the Joint Ministerial Commission scheduled for 12 May in Canberra.