India and Australia on Monday committed to begin the commercial exports of Uranium from Australia as well as hold an early round of talks on the proposed comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA).
The nations also signed six pacts across inseveral key areas such as civil aviation, environment, health & medicine as well as one aimed at boosting counter-terrorism cooperation.
The issue of procurement of Uranium from Australia was addressed by both Prime Minister Narendra Modi
and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull
who is currently in India as part of a four day tour. Modi welcomed the passage of a domestic legislation by the Australian parliament, which now allows the export of the nuclear material to India.
Senior government officials had earlier pointed out that procedural constraints have been solved with only commercial negotiations pending. Australia has about 40 per cent of the world's uranium reserves and exports nearly 7,000 tonnes of yellow cake annually.
Previous Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had signed a memorandum of understanding in 2014 for "Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy" whereby Australia would become a long-term supplier of uranium to India.
However, regarding the proposed comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA), the nations only committed to hold an early round of negotiations.
Discussions n tariff reduction and market access in services have proved to be majorsticking points regarding the CECA, talks on which had begun in 2011. Several rounds of negotiations have been completed for liberalising trade and services regime besides removing non-tariff barriers and encouraging investments.
Thelatest ninth round of negotiations took place in New Delhi in September lastyear. Two-way trade exceeded $12 billion in 2015-16, a significant fall from the more than $18 billion worth of trade five years back. India was also Australia's 10th largest trading partner and 5th largest export market in 2015-16.
India had pushed talkson the backburner keeping an eye on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, of which Australia is a part. However, with that too moving slowly, India is keen on finishing talks.
agreement involves the ten countries of the ASEAN grouping and six of its free tradepartners - China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Australia. Under the RCEP, India had earlier offered tariff elimination of 42.5 per cent of all traded goods to Australia, while that country has offered zero tariff on 80 percent of such goods.
The two leaders alsoinaugurated a research center on nano and bio technology. "TheAustralia-India Research Fund of nearly $100 million has focused on collaborative research projects in the areas such as nano-technology, smartcities, infrastructure, agriculture and disease control," Modi said.
Resolving to deepen maritime cooperation, the two prime ministers also recognised that India and Australia share common interests in ensuring maritimesecurity and the safety of sea lines of communication.
Turnbull is set to meet industry leaders in Mumbai on Tuesday.