Australia's trade minister Dan Tehan says it is keen on closing out an FTA with India
Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott having discussions with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi during a previous visit to India. An FTA between the two countries would be the icing on the cake for what is being seen as a very productive bilateral relationship thus far.Courtesy: ANI

Australia's trade minister Dan Tehan says it is keen on closing out an FTA with India

SPECIAL REPORT

The ongoing visit by former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott to India should elevate bilateral ties further and propel the economic relationship towards its full potential.

Ensuring that former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott’s ongoing visit to India brings home a positive report card for his government Australian trade minister Dan Tehan has stated to the media that his government is preparing to pursue, and perhaps even close out, a much-awaited Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Indian government.

Tony Abbott has been appointed Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Special Trade Envoy for India to increase bilateral trade and investment and propel the economic relationship towards its full potential.

Abbott is visiting India from August 2 to 6 and will be meeting ministers, business people and think tanks to energise bilateral economic ties. Australia's High Commissioner to India, Barry O'Farrell said that the bilateral relationship is at a historic high. "In 2020, PM Modi and PM Morrison elevated the relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. We also committed to strengthening our economic relationship," he said.

"Mr Abbott looks forward to discussions on India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, which will propel our economic relationship to its full potential, to mutual benefit of the Indian and Australian people," he added.

While stopping to emphasise India’s importance in a bilateral relationship, Tehan also focused on the Indo-Pacific as a global trading route and called for free and fair economic activity in that corridor despite China’s attempts to thwart international plans.
While stopping to emphasise India’s importance in a bilateral relationship, Tehan also focused on the Indo-Pacific as a global trading route and called for free and fair economic activity in that corridor despite China’s attempts to thwart international plans.Courtesy: Getty Images

All eyes on the FTA

Focusing on an FTA which could change the dimensions of the Indo-Australian bilateral ties putting it on an elevated level of engagement, Tehan said, “The Australian government wants to bolster its economic engagement with New Delhi and end up with an FTA. We have ongoing negotiations with the EU, and the 12th round of discussions this October. Hopefully, after our agreement in principle with the UK we can also sign off on an FTA with the EU as well.”

Barry O'Farrell said increasing bilateral trade and investment will help drive economic recovery from COVID-19 pandemic and build secure and resilient supply chains, a point which was also echoed by Tehan when he put the spotlight on the Indo-Pacific which has brought India, US; Japan and Australia together to form the Quad in an attempt to ensure that there is free and fair economic activity in an attempt to blunt China’s policies and actions leading to economic obstruction.

“We do not want to see economic coercion and disruption of trading flows. That is not the message of the Indo-Pacific, and it is not in the interests of the people of the Indo-Pacific. That’s the message the Australian government has been giving to all countries that we have been visiting,” said Tehan adding, “A free and open Indo-Pacific will lead to further prosperity across the region and if we continue to have the economic weight of the world in the Indo-Pacific and set the trade rules then this will be the key.”

US President Joe Biden attends the first Quad Summit virtually with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga and Australian PM Scott Morrison. The members of the Quad are seeking to remove economic coercion and disruption of trading flows along the Indo-Pacific corridor in a bid to boost free and fair trading activity.
US President Joe Biden attends the first Quad Summit virtually with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga and Australian PM Scott Morrison. The members of the Quad are seeking to remove economic coercion and disruption of trading flows along the Indo-Pacific corridor in a bid to boost free and fair trading activity.Courtesy: ANI

Adhering to global trading rules

Tehan added that, “What we want to see is all countries adhering to global trading rules and working together to set those rules. What we want to see in the Indo-Pacific is all countries understanding their obligations and meeting their obligation and understanding that the Indo-Pacific is where the economic weight of the world is. The reason we’ve got there is because we have had an open and fair trading environment which has benefited all countries. We want all countries to understand that.”

Both India and Australia are members of the Quad, Commonwealth, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), ASEAN Regional Forum and Asia Pacific Partnership on Climate and Clean Development.

According to O’Farrell, this is the principle guiding force behind Abbott’s ongoing visit to India. “Mr. Abbott looks forward to meeting with ministers, businesspeople and think tanks to energise bilateral economic relationship," he said. "He also looks forward to discussions on India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, which will propel our economic relationship to its full potential, to mutual benefit of the Indian and Australian people," he added.

Australian ambassador to India, Barry O’Farrell meeting with UP deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma earlier this year. He described Abbott’s visit to India as an attempt to energise the economic relationship between the two countries.
Australian ambassador to India, Barry O’Farrell meeting with UP deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma earlier this year. He described Abbott’s visit to India as an attempt to energise the economic relationship between the two countries. Courtesy: ANI

A shared vision on multiple platforms

India and Australia had elevated their bilateral ties to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) and signed seven agreements including on defence and mining during a virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Aussie counterpart Scott Morrison.

The two countries also announced a shared vision for maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific to harness opportunities and meet challenges together as Comprehensive Strategic Partners.

Both the countries agreed to continue to deepen and broaden defence cooperation by enhancing the scope and complexity of their military exercises and engagement activities to develop new ways to address shared security challenges.

India and Australia also signed framework Arrangements on Cyber and Cyber-Enabled Critical Technology Cooperation and an MOU on cooperation in the field of mining and processing of Critical and Strategic Minerals.

- With inputs from Reuters & ANI

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