Canberra: India and Australia committed on Thursday to doubling bilateral trade within five years and trade ministers from the two nations signed an agreement to start free trade negotiations.
Two way trade between India and Australia is currently worth about A$20 billion ($21 billion) a year, with the trade balance strongly skewed in Australia’s favour because of India’s insatiable appetite for natural resources.
“We agreed to double bilateral trade in the next five years,” trade minister Anand Sharma told reporters in Canberra after talks with Craig Emerson, his Australian counterpart. “We are convinced that the Australia-India relationship is robust.”
India is Australia’s fourth largest export market as it is a heavy importer of gold, coal an copper, and in the nine months to March, it had a trade deficit of A$9.6 billion with Australia.
Australia is also a major destination for Indian students and education services to India are worth more than A$3 billion a year.
India is also keen to buy Australian uranium to help its expanding energy sector, but Australia refuses to sell nuclear material to India because the country has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Emerson said uranium exports were not raised during his meeting with Sharma on Thursday.
India has long complained about Australia’s uranium export policy. Australia expects India to build five new nuclear reactors by 2016.
Australia has the world’s biggest known uranium reserves but supplies only 19% of the world market from three current mines, BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam, Energy Resources Australia’s Ranger mine in the Northern Territory, and the Beverly mine, owned by US company General Atomics.