A deal with Australia will help India engage with others on similar lines, says trade minister
India is likely to finalise mini trade deals with Australia and UK and hopes to conclude a similar deal with Canada after elections in that country are over, trade minister Piyush Goyal said on Thursday.
“I am delighted to announce today Australia has kind of agreed to do an early harvest agreement with India. They had sent a special trade envoy, former prime minister Tony Abott with whom we had extensive discussions. I urge all of you to quickly assess which are the areas where we can finalise the early harvest with Australia, what are the areas of your interest, what are the areas where you can let go a little bit, and on a give and take basis, we can then close the Australian engagement. One early harvest with a large country like Australia from the developed world, will help us to engage with others, on similar lines," Goyal said while addressing the export promotion councils in Mumbai.
Australia and India launched negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement in May 2011. There have been nine rounds of negotiations, the most recent of which was held in September 2015. However, not much progress could be made because of India’s sensitivity with Australian demand for market access in dairy products.
Goyal said talks with UK are progressing well. “Our teams are talking to each other. We are working with line ministries to identify areas where we can close the deal in terms of an early harvest if possible. So instead of trying to address 11,000 lines, whether we can look at areas of their immediate interest and our immediate interest; close an early harvest agreement; and continue to negotiate on rest of the agreement," he said.
Trade minister said FTA negotiations by India have a “very positive momentum" also with EU, Canada, UAE, GCC countries and Israel. “We are starting work with Bangladesh. Our effort is to ensure that we focus on countries where we have significant potential, more with the developed world where we can compete better and where the market size can be of significant value," he added.
Goyal said if the second wave of covid had not hit, then much progress could have been made with Canada for an early harvest. “There is a little delay there because they have elections in next couple of months. Probably after that we could have a much more accelerated dialogue with them," he said.
With EU, Goyal said, discussions may take longer as they are a 27 member group. “We had seven long years of engagement till 2013 after which trade negotiations had to be abandoned. It is only the prime minister’s goodwill and the credibility that he has built up over so many years, that the EU has agreed to once again enter into negotiations for an FTA. Literally they had said in their engagement with official level and ministerial level that they don’t want to do it. They don’t believe any outcome will happen. We will work very hard to speed it up, but that would have certain time table that we have to await. Your expectation shouldn’t be that it is happening very quickly," he added.
Goyal said the US as of now has indicated that it is not looking for new trade agreements. “But we will work with them for more market access issues on both sides. That would also be a big relief and opportunity opener for our export sectors if the market access issues which include issues like non tariff barriers, mutual recognition agreements and more internationally aligned quality standards are sorted," he added.
Trade minister said the government this time around is trying to ensure FTAs are fairly and equitably crafted bringing in more elements of reciprocity. “But at the same time I hope you do appreciate that FTAs can’t be one way traffic. We will also have to open our markets to others if we want a larger pie in their markets. And therefore my appeal and request to all of you is to also identify areas where we have the confidence that we can withstand competition. If we get a fair bit of understanding of which are the sectors we need to negotiate with each country and which are the sectors where we have the ability to compete with them and open up for them, then we can get FTAs sorted out fairly quickly," he added.