India, Australia to double trade in four years

India and Australia agreed to double trade to $40 billion over next four years and said negotiations for a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) would be expedited.

The agreement to give an impetus to trade came after Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma met his Australian counterpart Craig Emerson for the annual Australia-India joint ministerial commission trade talks.

“It was agreed that the first meeting for this purpose would be scheduled by June or July 2011,” said a joint statement issued by the two sides.

The two-way trade between the countries is currently worth about $21 billion a year. India is Australia’s third largest merchandise export market while Australia is India’s eighth largest trading partner.

During the meeting, the ministers also announced setting up of the chief executive officers’ forum which would be co-chaired by Indian MP and industrialist Naveen Jindal and leading Australian businessman Lindsay Fox.

The first meeting of the forum, which would provide business guidance to the governments as they negotiate the FTA, would take place later this year.

Both the ministers stressed on building pathways towards closer economic integration, to enable better trade and investment including a high-quality comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) between Australia and India.

Such agreement would broaden the base of merchandise trade, removing non-tariff barriers that impede trade in services, facilitating and encouraging investment, and addressing behind-the-border restrictions to trade.

Sharma said that India is focussing on modernising its post-harvest technologies and welcomes 100 percent foreign investment in the agriculture and food processing sector.

He called for closer cooperation in technology transfer of food security sector and welcomed greater Australian investment especially for cold chains and storage and logistics management of agriculture and horticulture produce. (IANS)