India and Australia on Thursday agreed to conclude a long-pending free trade agreement by the end of 2022 and an early harvest trade deal by as early as December. The decision to expedite negotiations for India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) between the two countries was taken at a meeting between Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan.
“We have agreed on aggressive timelines (for concluding the trade pact)”, Goyal told reporters at a press conference held jointly with Tehan. India and Australia have decided to conclude an interim agreement or early harvest trade deal by December end. Under the early harvest agreement duties on certain selected items will be reduced.
The two sides have decided to have an exchange of offers regarding the proposed CECA by October. The final trade deal, which has been pending for the past several years, will, however, be concluded by 2022-end.
“This is like a T-20 match, that is why such aggressive timelines. The spirit of this partnership is that both India and Australia work in the same team for a win-win for each other,” said Goyal. India-Australia bilateral trade has exceeded AUD 24 billion last year. The proposed trade agreement would cover trade in goods and services, and investment, among others. “What we have agreed today is to make sure that we will conclude a free trade agreement between Australia and India by the end of 2022. Now, this Free Trade Agreement will include an interim agreement, which we will seek to finalise by Christmas.
“It will be consistent with Article 24 of the WTO, and it will cover goods, services, investment, we will begin discussing government procurement energy and resources, logistics and transport, standards, rules of origin and we have agreed to exchange offers by the end of October. Now, this is extraordinarily ambitious,” Tehan said. Goyal said that both India and Australia “have a very positive interest in expanding trade, which could be kick-started or which could be implemented in the interim, while the contours of the final agreement may take a little longer period of time”.
The interim agreement or the early harvest deal, he said, will “cover areas of immediate interest, you could call them the low hanging fruits”. On a question whether past discussions will be taken into account while finalising the CEPA, Goyal said, “What has been discussed in the past will always be there before us and help us speed up our negotiations. We will, however, bring in a fresh perspective to the talks”.
The visiting minister said the current trade between the two countries does not reflect the “true extent” of the economic partnership. He said that if the trade agreement is reached by 2022, “then you would see over the years to come that trading relationship double, and it will double in all areas because the complementarity between our economies is so great”.