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Aussie Minister declines to give fixed dates for next round of FTA talks

India has held 9 rounds of negotiation on a proposed free trade agreement with Australia

Subhayan Chakraborty  |  New Delhi 

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Australia, Steven Ciobo with Union Minister for Finance, Arun Jaitley during a meeting in New Delhi (Photo: PTI)

Arguing that trade talks take time and should have win-win outcomes, Australian Minister for Trade, Investment and Tourism has declined to give a timeframe for the next round of negotiations on the proposed India-

Addressing the press here on Tuesday, Ciabo said trade deals are not zero sum games and both sides should focus on a mutually beneficial outcome.

"Negotiations are continuing. The international trade space is very full. We are committed to stronger trade and investment ties with India." he added.

Several rounds of negotiations have been completed for liberalizing trade and services regime besides removing non-tariff barriers and encouraging investments. The latest ninth round of negotiations took place in New Delhi in September last year.

Talks have faltered after New Delhi has refused to budge from its position on reducing tariffs on agriculture while Canberra has been wary of greater market access.

"is pushing for tariff reduction in dairy, fresh fruit, pharmaceuticals, meat and wines. On the other hand, India wants zero duty on auto parts, textiles, and fresh fruit, including mangoes and greater access in the services sector", a senior government official said.

The countries had missed the last deadline to finish talks - January, 2016 set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australia's then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott in September, 2014.

The Aussie minister is visiting India as part of a two-day trip to India, Ciabo has met with Commerce and Industry Mininster Nirmala SIthraman and is also expected to meet Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

India is also dealing with as part of the ongoing negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade pact.

The minister said was not holding back on engaging India bilaterally in trade matters until reached a fruitful conclusion.

Also, unlike other developed economies, has historically managed to keep a positive trade balance in its bilateral trade with India. The country exported $11.15 billion worth of goods to India in 2016-17 while importing only $ 2.96 billion over the same period.

The massive resultant trade deficit for India is not only because of massive coal and natural gas imports from Down Under, worth more than a combined $ 7 billion but also due to consistently growing agri imports.

India is a large market for Australian agro products which sent over more than $921 million worth of chickpeas (Kabuli Chana), pulses and $ 525.38 million worth of wheat in 2016-17.

India has faced difficulty in bridging the gap owing to a lack of demand in for Indian goods in sectors where it enjoys competitiveness.

On the other hand, imports from are projected to grow in coming years. While saying that surpluses or deficits are not a good measure of trade relationships, Ciabo said technology exports from India may have a potential for growth.

project 'Down Under'

On the $16.5 billion controversy laden mining project in initiated by Enterprises, Ciabo said 'the investment has taken longer than the government would have liked'.

The company on Monday said it plans to begin work in October to build the controversial Carmichael coal project in Australia, aiming to make its first shipment in March 2020. The project has been delayed for years by court challenges from green groups and indigenous groups concerned about climate change, and the impact on native land and water supply, but those challenges have been rejected.

The Federal Court in Brisbane had dismissed appeals filed by environmentalists and a traditional landowner against the venture a few days back.

First Published: Wed, August 30 2017. 18:24 IST