Article by: Hari Yellina
Trade Minister Dan Tehan said that a free-trade agreement with India might be finalised this week. Mr Tehan claimed he spoke with his Indian counterpart up to twice a day and that the two were “making significant progress.” He also stated, “My goal is that we will have something by the end of this week or early next week.” “We’ve been attempting to accomplish this for over a decade, and we’re coming very close. In the end, it will come down to whether we can reach an agreement that is in both countries’ best interests.” The Australian agriculture industry has long sought a favourable trade agreement with India but has previously been wary of agricultural products imported from other countries.
The world’s second-largest country has always been a tough nut to crack, with past trade agreements falling through at the last minute due to India’s concerns about the impact of foreign agriculture products on its own farmers. “With India, we’ve obviously been trying to nail something since 2013, or even before that,” Mr Tehan explained. “I recall going to India with Mark Vaile when he was Trade Minister nearly 20 years ago to see if we could start talking about an FTA with India – so it’s tough work.” Recent reforms to the country’s farming sector, on the other hand, have created chances for exporters.
The Indian government has scrapped a government-guaranteed floor price for several agricultural essentials, sparking nationwide protests from the country’s millions of farmers. “We’re doing everything we can to make an announcement by early next week,” Mr Tehan said. “There’s a lot of effort going on behind the scenes.” Despite the potential benefits, the grain industry has stated that an FTA with India will not be supported until it improves market access for grains, pulses, and oilseeds. In other trade news, Australia’s free trade agreement with the United Kingdom is set to be ratified during the next parliament session, circumventing the typical ratification process for new treaties.
Mr Tehan has stated that he will speed up the process, but the administration has been accused of hurrying the process in order to claim a trade success ahead of the election. The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties must review all free trade agreements over a period of 20 days. The committee is currently accepting and assessing contributions, with a final report coming when parliament adjourns for the year on December 17. Labor has cautioned that ratifying the FTA without going through the proper channels risks trapping Australia in a one-sided trade agreement with unexpected effects.