India and Australia Are Looking To Sign An ‘Early harvest’ Trade Pact by December


As part of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), India and Australia are looking to conclude an early harvest scheme — covering tariff cuts on items that account for nearly half the trade as well as easier rules for service sectors — by December, over a decade after talks first started.

As per a joint press statement issued after the talks between the trade ministers of the two sides, they have agreed to instruct officials to speed up the negotiations and to meet as often as required to achieve an early harvest announcement by December 2021.

If the negotiations go as per plan, this will be the first among a set of trade deals that India is looking to clinch, with talks with the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and the UAE being pursued. While negotiations on many of them had started almost a decade ago, they are being pushed more aggressively after India exited a dialogue to be part of RCEP , the trade grouping with China, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand the ASEAN countries.

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There are, however, gaps that need to be narrowed down with Australia. For instance, when it comes to trade facilitation, India is unwilling to go beyond what it has committed at the WTO, reported TOI. Plus, it has had concerns over allowing agriculture and processed food items. India is hoping that the agreement will open the doors for its professionals, such as those in the IT sector, to get better access in Australia.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, India along with Japan has also been working closely with Australia on a resilient supply chain initiative, which seeks to reduce dependence on China. In recent months, Australia, which had signed a trade agreement with China a few years ago, has seen massive trade tension with Beijing.

The meeting comes within three weeks of a visit to New Delhi by the Australian Prime Minister’s special envoy to India Tony Abbott. Australia views India as a long-standing, valued and trusted partner, Mr. Abbott had asserted in his meetings with Indian ministers, hinting at an expeditious approach on Canberra’s part to CECA negotiations.

Three rounds of talks have already been held between the chief trade negotiators of both sides, the ministers said in a joint statement.

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