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Posted at: Jun 2, 2016, 12:32 AM; last updated: Jun 2, 2016, 12:32 AM (IST)

Australia backs India’s participation in ASEAN trade pact

Sanjeev Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 1

Australian High Commissioner Harinder Sidhu today said Australia supports India’s growing participation in the economic architecture of the Asia-Pacific region.

The High Commissioner said Australia is keen to work with India to achieve a sufficiently ambitious Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) outcome. RCEP negotiations involve the 10 ASEAN members and ASEAN’s six FTA partners, which include India and Australia.

Delivering a talk on “Pathways to Trade Liberalisation” organised by the Australian High Commission and the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), the High Commissioner said the RCEP countries account for almost half of the world’s population, nearly 30% of global GDP and over a quarter of world exports.

“From my perspective, India should have a regional voice commensurate with its size and economic weight. Australia supports India’s growing participation in the economic architecture of the region. Our increasing reference to the ‘Indo-Pacific’, rather than the earlier term of ‘Asia-Pacific’, reflects this desire to embrace India as a key contributor to building regional cooperation and integration,” the High Commisioner said.

She added that the RCEP provides an ideal forum in which India can contribute to shaping and influencing the rules governing trade and investment in the region. “Australia is keen to work with India to achieve a sufficiently ambitious RCEP outcome”, she said. In addition to RCEP, the other FTA Australia and India are both currently working on is the bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement – or CECA.

The High Commissioner said this is an agreement that promises to deliver substantial benefits to both countries. For India, CECA will give improved access to the world’s 12th largest economy — an affluent market with the world’s fifth highest per capita income, provide tariff-free exports and fulfil the economic potential of the two countries.

The bilateral relationship between the two countries is in such good shape, she said, “some have described it as having reached “a high watermark”.

Almost half a million, out of a total Australian population of 24 million, are of Indian origin. There are 53,000 Indian students studying in Australia today, the second largest source of overseas students. Around 2.33 lakh Indians visited Australia in 2015, making India the eighth largest source of visitors.


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