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Posted at: Jan 13, 2015, 1:53 AM; last updated: Jan 13, 2015, 1:53 AM (IST)

Committed to signing FTA with India: Oz

Offers limited online visas

  • Australia has announced a pilot programme for online lodging of subclass 600 visas for Indian business and tourism visitors
  • The programme will be rolled out through selected travel agents in India
Committed to signing FTA with India: Oz

Australian Minister Andrew Robb and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu release Australia India Institute Task Force Report in New Delhi on Monday. PTI

Girja Shankar Kaura

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 12

Australia today reaffirmed its commitment to sign the free trade agreement (FTA) with India and said it accords the “highest priority” to the conclusion 

of the treaty by the end of this year.

Pointing out that there was a clear political will on both sides, Australia’s Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb said: “Our highest FTA priority is now the conclusion of a bilateral trade deal with India,” although some technical details still need to be worked out.

He pointed out that in the last year Australia had signed FTA with at least 10 countries, including that with China, Japan and Korea, which had been lying pending for some years. An FTA between India and Australia would give a boost to bilateral trade between the two countries.

“Our leaders, the two Prime Ministers, have committed to concluding this deal by the end of 2015,” he said while adding that ways were being worked out to accommodate the concerns of both countries.

The two-way trade between India and Australia stands at a relatively modest $15 billion a year compared to $150 billion for Australia’s two-way trade with China.

Robb also announced the start of a pilot programme for online lodging of subclass 600 visas for Indian business and tourism visitors, which would be rolled out through select travel agents in India.

Elaborating on the areas of cooperation between the two countries, Robb said: Australia can help India diversify its energy base through the supply of low emission LNG and Uranium.

“As a mining superpower, Australia also wants to share the technology, expertise and capital that will help unlock India’s vast mineral resources,” he said.

He also pointed out that by next year, Australia would also be the largest exporter of LNG which could also benefit India.

Describing Australia and India as world-renowned agriculture producers, Robb said: “We see India as a major market for our premium products such as pulses, wool, dairy and wine. We also want to help Indian producers make investments in technology, storage and logistics that will ensure strong future growth.”

The minister said a delegation from Australia would visit India this week to explore opportunities for cooperation in the dairy sector. He further said Australian companies were excited by the opportunities offered by the “make in India” initiative.

Robb said there existed tremendous opportunities for both sides to enhance cooperation in sectors such as IT, education, services and skills development.

“At the moment there are only 450 Australian companies in India, as compared to 11,000 Australian companies in the US. We want to, in the years ahead, see several thousand Australian companies in India,” he said.

The talks for a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) also known as free trade agreement between India and Australia were started in 2011. So far several rounds of negotiations have been completed for further liberalising and broadening the base of merchandise trade, removing non-tariff barriers and encouraging investments.

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