India, Australia should aim for $100-bn annual trade: Tony Abbott

The India Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA), signed on April 2, targets to help increase annual bilateral trade to $50 billion in five years from about $27.5 billion in 2021.

Tony Abbott
Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. (Photo source: Reuters)

India and Australia should aim for sharply raising annual bilateral trade to $100 billion because “sky is the limit”, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has played a crucial role in shaping the recently-concluded interim trade deal, said here on Tuesday.

The India Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA), signed on April 2, targets to help increase annual bilateral trade to $50 billion in five years from about $27.5 billion in 2021. Both the sides are planning to use the deal to take bilateral commerce to new heights. This interim deal is supposed to be followed by a full-fledged free trade agreement (FTA).

Abbott, who is now the special trade envoy to the Australian Prime Minister, was speaking at a function where Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Barry O’Farrell AO, released an update to a 2018 report titled, An India Economic Strategy to 2035: Navigating From Potential to Delivery. “This update includes a five-year plan for the Australian government to help achieve its long-term economic ambitions with India,” the High Commissioner said.

“India and Australia have complementary economies. And our partnership is vital as we both strive for stronger, sustainable economic growth, and more secure and diversified trade and supply chains,” he added.

According to this strategy, Australia remains committed to the ambitious goal to lift India into its top three export markets by 2035 and make New Delhi the third-largest destination in Asia for outward Australian investment.

The update responds to evolving challenges and opportunities for both the countries, including lessons learned during the pandemic, efforts to bolster supply chain resilience, India’s economic reform agenda and progress under the Australia-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

The ECTA promises preferential access to all Indian goods in five years (from 96.4% immediately after the pact comes into effect) and 85% of Australian products (from 70% to start with) to each other’s market. Indian yoga instructors, chefs, students and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates will have easier access to Australia while premium wine from that country will make greater inroads into Indian supermarkets once the ECTA comes into force.

Moreover, Australia recently announced an investment of over AUD $280 million (Rs 1,500 crore), including to support new programmes and initiatives across technology, space, critical minerals, strategic research and people-to-people links, to bolster co-operation with India.

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