India FTA could be done deal by next week: Trade Minister

Jamieson Murphy
By Jamieson Murphy
Updated March 15 2022 - 11:35pm, first published March 14 2022 - 2:00am
GOLDEN GOOSE: Trade Minister Dan Tehan is closing in on an FTA with India, which Australia has been chasing for decades. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

A FREE-trade agreement with India could be finalised within the week, Trade Minister Dan Tehan has revealed.

Mr Tehan said he was talking to his Indian counterpart up to twice a day and said the pair were "making big inroads".

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"My hope would be that we might have something by the end of this week or early next week," Mr Tehan said.

"This has been something we've been trying to do now for over a decade but we're getting very close. In the end, it will depend on whether we can get something that's in both countries' national interests."

A favourable trade deal with India has long been sought after by the Australian agriculture industry, but India has previously been cautious of overseas agricultural products coming into its country.

The world's second largest nation has been a historically difficult nut to crack, with previous trade deals falling through at the last minute, due to India raising concerns about the impact foreign agriculture products would have on its own farmers.

"With India obviously we've been looking to try and nail something since 2013, or even before then," Mr Tehan said.

"I remember travelling with Mark Vaile when he was Trade Minister about 20 years ago to see whether we could begin discussions on an FTA with India - so it's hard work."

However, recent changes to its farming system have opened up opportunities for exporters. The India government has removed a government-guaranteed floor price for many India agricultural staples, which has been the subject to nation-wide protests by the country's millions of farmers.

"We're doing everything we can to try and get an announcement by early next week.... there's a lot of work going on behind the scenes," Mr Tehan said.

Despite the potential opportunities, the grain industry has warned it won't support an FTA with India if it does not improve market access for grains, pulses and oilseeds.

In other trade news, Australia's FTA with UK is expected to be ratified during the next parliament sitting, bypassing the usual procedure for new treaties.

Mr Tehan has indicated he will expedite the process, but the government have been accused of rushing the process to claim a trade victory during the upcoming campaign.

All free trade deals must be examined by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties for 20 days. Currently the committee is in the process accepting and reviewing submissions, with a final report due on December 17, after parliament has adjourned for the year.

Labor has warned ratifying the FTA without due process could lock Australia into a one-side trade deal with unintended consequences.

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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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