Australia on Wednesday said Adani Group's $16.5-billion Carmichael coal project
is moving ahead albeit slower than what it would have liked.
Australia's Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Steven Ciobo said the Adani Group has completed the process and the project would be beneficial for all the stakeholders.
"It is certainly moving forward... I have been made the point that there have been aspects of that investment that have taken much longer than I would have liked or government would have liked. That is the statement of fact but there is a process to be followed," he told reporters in New Delhi.
Adani will start work on its Carmichael coal project
in Australia in October and is expected to ship the first consignment in March 2020, the company has said after the controversy-hit project cleared two major legal hurdles.
The group has for more than five years battled opposition from green groups who say any expansion of the port will cut into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The port is to be used for exporting coal to India.
The group has so far invested AUD 3.4 billion on the Abbot Point port and preparatory work for the Carmichael coal mine.
The company decided to move forward on the project after it cleared two more legal hurdles last week with a Brisbane court dismissing appeals filed by environmentalists and a traditional landowner against the venture. Free Trade Agreement:
Talking about the long pending FTA, the Australian minister
said officials of both the countries are talking regularly on the pact.
"We have really strong trade and investment ties notwithstanding there is an FTA in place. But I am confident that if we can put in place a good quality deal, that will help further in solidifying the relationship," Ciobo said.
However, no dates have been fixed to resume the next round of negotiations, which started in 2011. So far nine rounds of talks have been held on the FTA, officially dubbed as Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CECA).
When asked about the reasons for delay, he said that "trade negotiations are always challenging" and trade ministers of both the countries are pursuing their national interests.
"We both are committed for constructive discussions to produce a high-quality deal," he said, adding that trade deals are not zero sum games and a good quality deal facilitates trade and investments.
The bilateral trade between the countries increased to $14.12 billion in 2016-17 from $12.16 billion in the previous fiscal. The trade is highly in favour of Australia.
The Australian minister
said trade surplus or deficit is not a good measure for a good quality trade and investment relationship.
Both sides were expecting to conclude the negotiations by December 2015 but there were differences in areas like duty cut on dairy products and wines.
Last month Australian media quoted Ciobo as saying that India has adopted a "reasonably protectionist bent" for its agricultural products in FTA talks.