Trade Initiatives to Strengthen India’s Economic Ties with Australia

In a bid to bolster economic cooperation and trade relations, India and Australia convened the first Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) under the India-Australia Economic Co-operation and Trade Agreement (ECTA). The meeting, held in Canberra, saw the two nations agreeing on several key initiatives aimed at enhancing collaboration and resolving market access issues.

Led by Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal from the Indian delegation and Deputy Secretary George Mina from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) representing Australia, the discussions centered on fostering collaborative projects, and ensuring a timely resolution of market access issues.

One of the notable outcomes of the meeting was the establishment of an institutional mechanism for sharing preferential import data, a pioneering initiative aimed at facilitating smoother trade flows between the two nations. Additionally, both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the ongoing Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) negotiations, pledging to explore innovative areas to expedite the process.

Among the key highlights of the JCM was the adoption of Rules of Procedure for the Joint Committee and discussions on critical services issues, including India’s request for cross-border e-payment facilitation and mutual recognition agreements in professions. India also expressed its commitment to align with the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement by removing certain requirements.

The meeting also showcased progress made by the working group on Whisky and Wine, along with discussions on areas of mutual interest such as coastal tourism and collaboration in establishing Disease-Free Zones for shrimps and prawns in India.

Looking ahead, the JCM aims to serve as a pivotal platform for both nations to further strengthen trade ties and explore new opportunities for bilateral economic cooperation. With merchandise trade between India and Australia already reaching around USD 24 billion in 2023-24, the potential for further growth remains substantial, signaling a promising trajectory for the future of Indo-Australian economic relations.

In a parallel development, India’s decision to remove the 40% import duty on desi chana has reverberated across international markets, causing a notable surge in commodity prices. The move, made amidst ongoing sowing activities in Australia, is anticipated to incentivize farmers in the region to expand the acreage and production of Bengal gram for export to India.

However, concerns have been raised within the domestic pulses industry regarding the potential implications of increased imports on domestic production. Some stakeholders fear that the removal of import duties could discourage Indian farmers from sowing chana in the upcoming season, potentially exacerbating India’s dependence on imports.

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