Australia and India will soon begin negotiations for a bilateral trade agreement, Australian Trade Minister Craig Emerson said Sunday.
Emerson said he is scheduled to meet his Indian counterpart, Anand Sharma, on May 12 in Canberra and will use the occasion to discuss the launch of negotiations for a free trade agreement, as well as other bilateral trade and economic matters.
“India is an enormous, rapidly expanding market for Australian businesses, and negotiations for a high-quality trade deal are central to the (Prime Minister Julia) Gillard government’s wider plans for greater economic integration between our two countries,” Emerson said in a statement. “That India has now formally agreed to begin the negotiation process is a milestone in the Australia-India relationship.”
Trade between the two countries has grown rapidly in recent years, mostly due to sharply increased exports from Australia of gold and coal. Total Australian merchandise exports to India in 2009-10 reached A$16.18 billion, from A$7.38 billion in 2005-06. Indian merchandise exports to Australia totaled A$1.85 billion in 2009-10 and comprised a wider range of manufactured goods.
A joint feasibility study concluded a year ago found that an Australia-India FTA is feasible and made a strong case that both countries would gain significant economic benefits from a comprehensive FTA.
Emerson said an FTA will broaden the base of merchandise trade, remove barriers to services trade, facilitate and encourage investment, and address behind-the-border obstacles to trade.