India, Australia to begin free trade talks

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Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and his Australian counterpart Craig Emerson will begin talks on a free trade agreement between the two countries when they meet May 12. India is Australia’s third-biggest export market.

Emerson welcomed the Indian government’s formal agreement to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement with Australia, saying that it is a milestone in diplomatic relations.

He highlighted the importance of Australia’s commodity and education exports to India.

“India is an enormous, rapidly expanding market for Australian businesses,” he said in a statement.

“Such a deal would broaden the base of merchandise trade, remove barriers to services trade, facilitate and encourage investment and address behind-the-border obstacles to trade.”

He said a free trade agreement to achieve zero tariffs would be bilateral, and it is important to achieve trade liberalization with India through multilateral forums.

Relations between the two countries have been previously strained because the Australian government is opposed to exporting uranium to India that has not signed the UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Violence against Indian students has also stirred diplomatic tensions.

Australia currently has free trade agreements with the US, Thailand, New Zealand, Singapore and Chile. (IANS)