Free Trade Agreement with India likely soon: Australian diplomat

Started by sajiv, May 29, 2009, 05:21 PM

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Free Trade Agreement with India likely soon: Australian diplomat

CHENNAI: The Australian Government's proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India is likely to be firmed up shortly, Sarah Hooper, Counsellor (Political and Economic), Australian High Commission, New Delhi said on Thursday.

Addressing the members of Indo-Australian Chamber of Commerce, Ms. Hooper said the designated FTA team had done a thorough feasibility study and forwarded its recommendations to the Commerce Ministry in India some time ago.

"Hopefully, now with the elections out of way we can expect the FTA to be signed soon," said Ms. Hooper, who was in Chennai as part of a familiarisation trip after taking charge at the High Commission.

According to the diplomat, Australia firmly believed that FTAs provided the platform for building stronger bilateral relationships and an India FTA would trigger trade and investments ties in a regime of easier procedures and lower duties.

Ms. Hooper said that the Australian Government's strong commitment to improve bilateral ties was reflected in the fact that India figured in the six most important relationships with other countries.

Pointing out that people-to-people contact more than Governments set the context of improving relationships, Ms. Hooper acknowledged that Indian students seeking higher education in Australia constituted one of the strongest elements in the bilateral linkage.

"The next step is to facilitate stronger business to business relationships," she said.

Aminur Rahman, Australian Consul General and Trade Commissioner, Chennai, said bilateral trade had gone up from $ 7 billion to $ 12 billion in the last three years while investments rose from $ 1 billion to $ 4.50 billion. Trade and investments are bound to go up as past experience has demonstrated that FTAs always set off a huge jump in volumes, he said.

C. Sarat Chandran, director of the Chamber said mechanisation of agriculture, horticulture, dairy and seafood were some of the areas that Australian Small and Medium Enterprises could look at investing in.

Earlier, when approached for her view on the attack on Indian students in Australia, Ms. Hooper said she endorsed the strong statement issued by Australian Minister for Foreign affairs Stephen Smith condemning the incident.

A hotline, staffed by volunteers fluent in English and Hindi, had been established to provide support, information and advice to Indian students.