Trade Minister abroad once again chasing elusive Indian trade deal

Jamieson Murphy
By Jamieson Murphy
February 9 2022 - 7:00pm
TOUGH NUT TO CRACK: India has been a historically cautious of overseas agricultural products coming into its country, but Trade Dan Tehan is determined to cut a deal. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

THE Trade Minister is once again in India to continue negotiating a free trade agreement, but the grains industry has warned it won't support any deal that doesn't improve the sector's access to one of world's largest and fastest growing markets

An interim trade, which would pave the way for an FTA, was due to be signed by the two countries at the end of last year after promising talks in October, however a final agreement was not reached.

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Trade Minister Dan Tehan said he would hold several meetings with his Indian counterpart, Priyush Goyal, who are "both committed to concluding an interim free trade agreement".

Mr Tehan will also continue to negotiate the free trade agreement, formally titled the India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).

"Nothing can replace face-to-face meetings to help speed up the process in the interest of both countries," Mr Tehan said.

"Australia and India are important trading partners, and we share a strong desire to further enhance our bilateral trade relationship.

"A free trade agreement with India would be a boon for Australian businesses, farmers and workers, creating new jobs and opportunities with one of the world's largest and fastest developing economies."

Historically, India has been wary of foreign agricultural produce, concerned about the impact it could have on its large farming population, which has led to several trade deals falling through.

GrainGrowers chief executive David McKeon said there was still a high level of frustration among Australia growers at the level of tariffs imposed on products going into India, particularly on chickpeas.

"Range of these issues need to be addressed through the Indian free-trade agreement," Mr McKeon said.

"The grains industry won't be supportive of any FTA that doesn't improve market access for grains, pulses and oilseeds."

Although some previous tariffs on lentils have been lift, Mr McKeon said there were still a range of barriers, including non-tariff barriers, such as the threshold around particular weed seeds for malt barley.

"Working to solve these barriers will deliver mutually beneficial outcomes for both countries," Mr McKeon said.

"The growing Indian economy is a great opportunity for Australian farmers, who in turn can help support the dietary needs of India's growing population."

At the moment, Australia's two-way agricultural trade with India is valued at over $1 billion, with lentils, greasy wool, almonds, raw cotton and oats among the key exports to India.

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Jamieson Murphy

Jamieson Murphy

National Rural Affairs reporter

National Rural Affairs reporter, focusing on rural politics and issues. Whisper g'day mate to me at jamieson.murphy@austcommunitymedia.com.au

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