Zee News | Monday, August 24, 2009
Aus, India close to complete feasibility study on FTA
Canberra: Taking forward their growing economic ties, Australia and India are close to complete a feasibility study to establish a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in a wide range of areas, an Australian official said on Monday.
The feasibility study for the FTA commenced early last year and is about to be completed soon, the official told a group of visiting journalists from India.
"We are keen to finalise the feasibility study. It is quite close," he said.
India is the fifth largest market for Australia. The amount of exports from Australia is to the tune of 19 billion Australian dollar, the official said.
The export of cooking coal alone fetches 5 billion Australian dollar a year to the country’s economy.
The FTA will cover a wide range of areas as Australia has huge natural resources.
"After the feasibility study both the countries will finalise the areas which will come under FTA", he said.
Australian oil and gas company ExxonMobil has signed a contract with Petronet of India to supply Liquefied Natural Gas by 2014. The agreement was signed on August 10.
Asked whether Australia would export uranium to India, the official said his government position has been that uranium would not be exported to any non-NPT country.
Since India is a non-NPT signatory country, Australia could not export uranium to it.
The official said that Australia will be joining SAARC as an observer. "We will attend for the first time the meeting of the eight-nation grouping in Bhutan in April next year."
Australia is the ninth observer in SAARC after Japan, US, China and South Korea.
"It gives a bigger forum for the observer countries to engage with the SAARC nations in wide range of areas for mutual benefit," the official said.
Australia supports India’s aspiration to become a permanent member in UN Security Council, he said.
To take forward the bilateral ties, a number of Australian ministers including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd would visit New Delhi.
Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard will visit India next week when she is expected to press for a regulatory framework to monitor education agents engaged by a number of private Australian educational providers to attract students from India.
The issue assumed significance in the backdrop of a number of attacks on Indian students here.
The official said the private Australian institutions have engaged hundreds of agents in India to attract students.
Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith is expected to visit India in October.
Nine Indian ministers including Foreign Minister S M Krishna have visited Australia in the last 18 months which showed the growing bilateral ties between the two countries.
Indian students constitute a major chunk of the international students in Australia. There were about 4.29 lakhs international students in Australia last year including over 90,000 from India.
Nearly 50 per cent of the Indian students pursue vocational education and training which is largely controlled by private sector.
There has been allegation about poor quality of education offered by the private institutions, the official said, adding that an audit has been initiated to find out whether these institutions fulfill the requirement.
In case of any deficiency they will be closed down.
However, the students of those institutions will be given admissions in other universities.
He said, "safety and security of Indian students is a priority for the Australian govt."
Prime Minister Rudd has set up a task force to look into the problems faced by international students. Apart from the federal government, all the state governments in Australia are involved in the task force. It will hold a meeting of international students on September 14 and 15 here.