India-Australia make significant progress on economic cooperation with latest CECA negotiations

They talked about TRQ administration, pharmaceutical pricing control in Australia particularly on Generics, progress made by the working group on whisky and wine

India and Australia have made significant strides in strengthening their economic relationship through the latest meetings on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) negotiations.

An Indian delegation led by Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal had “very constructive and productive discussions” on various trade and prospective investment-related issues with the Australian delegation led by Deputy Secretary George Mina from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in Canberra as well as the businesses in Sydney and Melbourne.

India-Australia ECTA Joint Committee, led by Mr Sunil Barthwal, Commerce Secretary and Mr George Mina, Deputy Secretary Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

In the first Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) under the India-Australia Economic Co-operation and Trade Agreement (Ind-Aus ECTA), both sides acknowledged the smooth implementation of the ECTA. Briefly, they elaborated on ECTA implementation issues including MRAs on organic products, and market access issues related to products like okra, pomegranate, grapes, cottage cheese, macadamia nuts, lentils and avocado.

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They also talked about TRQ administration, pharmaceutical pricing control in Australia particularly on Generics, progress made by the working group on whisky and wine aiming to address regulatory challenges and promote trade of these products, outcomes of the ECTA sub-committee meetings and the need for their regular meetings for a timely resolution, areas of mutual interest including coastal tourism, critical mineral and collaboration for establishing disease-free zones for shrimps and prawns in India.

India-Australia ECTA Joint Committee, led by Mr Sunil Barthwal, Commerce Secretary and Mr George Mina, Deputy Secretary Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

“Discussions were also held at the chief negotiators level between Additional Secretary Rajesh Aggarwal from DoC and Assistant Secretary Ravi Kewalram from DFAT under India-Australia CECA negotiations to review the progress made after nine rounds and the way forward for its completion with a view to reaching at a balanced outcome, building on the achievements of India-Australia ECTA, keeping in mind the sensitivities on both the sides,”

a joint press release said.

“It also explored areas of effective cooperation in various sectors, going beyond the traditional approach to FTAs “for a deeper integration of the economies”.

Australia is an important trading partner of India in the Oceania region with merchandise trade between India and Australia reaching around 24 billion USD in 2023-24, signalling significant potential for further growth.

Rajesh Agrawal, Additional Secretary, India’s Department of Commerce and Chief Negotiator India-Australia CECA had a detailed meeting with his CN Australia in Canberra

The Joint Committee Meeting serves as a vital platform for both nations to further strengthen trade ties and explore new opportunities for bilateral economic cooperation in areas such as trade facilitation, and investment promotion, as well as cooperation in other areas including technology support.

JCM also adopted the Rules of Procedure for the Joint Committee and established an institutional mechanism, the first of its kind for FTAs for the regular exchange of preferential import data on monthly basis. It also briefly deliberated on an integrated approach for the forthcoming CEO forum event for promoting investments, in particular on startups.

The JCM meeting also addressed certain critical services issues, including the consideration of India’s request for the facilitation of cross-border e-payments and mutual recognition agreements in professions like nursing and dentistry.

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The release said that the commitment to “remove the ENT/LMT requirement” in line with the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement was reiterated, alongside discussions focusing on facilitating the mobility of healthcare workers between the two nations, promoting tele-medicines.

“The JCM reaffirmed the commitment of both India and Australia to foster a robust and mutually beneficial economic relationship, paving the way for enhanced cooperation and prosperity for both nations,”

the release said.

The meeting also touched upon the WTO issues. The release said the Commerce Secretary made it amply clear on the importance of the support of Australia for early resolution of the long pending issue of a permanent solution to public stockholding (PSH). Australia sought the support of India for the plurilateral arrangement for domestic support for services. Both sides agreed to discuss these matters inter-seasonally if required.

Meetings with the businesses and business associations including Australia India Business Council and Chambers of Commerce in Sydney and Melbourne as well as CII explored areas of mutual interest, the release said.

“It was evident that given the existing potential, businesses are eager to work together including capacity building and vocational training, hiring of skilled professional and caretakers such as healthcare workers, nurses through skill gap mapping exercise, need for mutual recognition of standards, collaboration on critical minerals, digital connectivity including cross-border payment system, finance, education, agri, dairy and food processing, transport and storage, sports, pharmaceuticals, silicon wafers, space and medical equipment,” the release said.

“Overall, these meetings revealed the extreme eagerness of the businesses and governments of both sides to work hard and bring new synergy to take the strategic partnership to a new level, bringing in significant benefit to businesses and citizens,” it added.

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