India & Australia to work closely on collaborative projects

May 06: Australia is an important trading partner of India in the Oceania region with merchandise trade between India and Australia reaching around 24 billion USD in 2023-24, signaling significant potential for further growth. The Joint Committee Meeting serves as a vital platform for both nations to further strengthen trade ties and explore new opportunities for bilateral economic cooperation in areas such as trade facilitation, investment promotion, as well as cooperation in other areas including technology support.

An Indian delegation led by Commerce Secretary Shri Sunil Barthwal had very constructive and productive discussions on various trade and prospective investment-related issues with the Australian delegation led by Depute Secretary Shri George Mina from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in Canberra as well as the businesses in Sydney and Melbourne for deepening the existing economic relations between the two democracies, taking advantage of the trade complementarities and expertise and unexplored potential both economies have.

In the first Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) under the India-Australia Economic Co-operation and Trade  Agreement (Ind-Aus ECTA), both sides while acknowledging the smooth implementation of the ECTA, briefly elaborated on ECTA implementation issues including MRAs on organic products, market access issues related to products like okra, pomegranate, grapes, cottage cheese, macadamia nuts, lentils and avocado, TRQ administration, pharmaceutical pricing control in Australia particularly on Generics, progress made by the working group on Whisky and Wine aiming to address regulatory challenges and promote trade of these products, outcomes of the ECTA sub-committee meetings and need for their regular meetings for timely resolution, areas of mutual interest including coastal tourism, critical mineral and collaboration for establishing Disease-Free Zones for shrimps and prawns in India. JCM also adopted the Rules of Procedure for the Joint Committee and established an institutional mechanism, the first of its kind for FTAs, for the regular exchange of preferential import data on a monthly basis. It also briefly deliberated on an integrated approach for the forthcoming CEO forum event for promoting investments, in particular on startups.

The JCM meeting also addressed certain critical service issues, including the consideration of India’s request for the facilitation of cross-border e-payments and mutual recognition agreements in professions like nursing and dentistry. Furthermore, the commitment to remove the ENT/LMT requirement in line with the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement was reiterated, alongside discussions focusing on facilitating the mobility of healthcare workers between the two nations and promoting telemedicine.

Overall, the JCM reaffirmed the commitment of both India and Australia to foster a robust and mutually beneficial economic relationship, paving the way for enhanced cooperation and prosperity for both nations.

Discussions were also held at the chief negotiators level between Additional Secretary Shri Rajesh Aggarwal from DoC and Assistant Secretary Shri Ravi Kewalram from DFAT under India-Australia CECA negotiations to review the progress made after nine rounds and the way forward for its completion with a view to reaching a balanced outcome, building on the achievements of Ind-Aus ECTA, keeping in mind the sensitivities on both the sides. It also explored areas of effective cooperation in various sectors, going beyond the traditional approach to FTAs for a deeper integration of the economies.

The meeting also touched upon the WTO issues wherein both sides appreciated the Commerce Secretary made it ample clear on the importance of the support of Australia for early resolution of the long pending issue of a permanent solution to public stockholding (PSH). Australia sought the support of India for the plurilateral arrangement for domestic support for services. Both sides agreed to discuss these matters intersessionally if required.

Meetings with the businesses and business associations including Australia India Business Council and Chambers of Commerce in Sydney and Melbourne as well as CII explored areas of mutual interest. It was evident that given the existing potential, businesses are eager to work together including capacity building and vocational training, hiring of skilled professionals and caretakes such as healthcare workers, nurses, etc, through skill gap mapping exercise, the need for mutual recognition of standards, collaboration on critical minerals, digital connectivity including cross border payment system, finance, education, Agri, dairy & food processing, transport and storage, sports, pharmaceuticals, silicon wafers, space, medical equipment and so on and so forth.

Overall, these meetings revealed the extreme eagerness of the businesses and governments of both sides to work hard and bring new synergy to take the strategic partnership to a new level, bringing significant benefits to businesses and citizens.

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