Tony Abbott to focus on reviving stalled FTA negotiations on India visit

New Delhi, Aug 2 (FN Bureau) ) Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has been named the Australian Prime Minister’s Special Trade Envoy for India, will be holding discussions on taking forward the India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement during his five-day India visit. Abbott, who arrives on Monday, will be meeting with Indian Ministers, businesspeople and think tanks to energise the bilateral economic relationship, said Australian High Commissioner Barry O’Farrell, in a statement. In June last year, India and Australia elevated their bilateral ties to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) at a virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Both sides “also committed to strengthening our economic relationship”.

“Australia is keen to deepen our trade and investment links with India, and take our economic relationship to the next level,” O’Farrell said. He said increasing bilateral trade and investment will help drive economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and build secure and resilient supply chains. “In particular, Mr Abbott looks forward to discussions on the India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, which will propel our economic relationship to its full potential, to the mutual benefit of the Indian and Australian people,” he said. India is negotiating with Australia a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) covering trade in goods, services, investment and related issues. Negotiations on the CECA, which were launched in May 2011, have been suspended since 2015 after nine rounds. Australia’s new Minister for Trade Dan Tehan has flagged that a trade deal with India will be one of his top priorities.

Tehan, in a message on Saturday, said Abbott’s visit “will be an opportunity to progress Australia’s ambitious agenda to energise and expand our bilateral trade and investment relationship with India.” In November 2018, the Australian government formally endorsed the independent India Economic Strategy and its ambitious vision for bilateral trade and investment by 2035. The India Economic Strategy has identified 10 priority areas to grow trade with India: a flagship sector (education), three lead sectors (agribusiness, resources and tourism) and six promising sectors (energy, health, financial services, infrastructure, sport and science). India’s recently-released Australia Economic Strategy identifies significant room for growth in exports and investment in 12 focus sectors and eight emerging sectors. Australia is keen to push trade negotiations with India and promote diversification of its exports markets in the wake of its souring political and economic ties with China. Relations between the two have been on the decline since Australia called for a probe into the origins of the coronavirus and banned Huawei from building its 5G network. China has clamped down on Australian exports worth at least AU$20 billion (US$15.4 billion). According to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, trade in goods and services between Australia and India has grown in value from $13.6 billion in 2007 to $30.4 billion in 2018. Tony Abbott served as the 28th Prime Minister of Australia from 2013 to 2015.