Australia endorses study into India trade
6 May 2010
SYDNEY — Australia Thursday said it had taken a major step towards a free trade agreement with India, with a study carried showing a bilateral deal would offer "significant economic benefits" to both sides.
Trade Minister Simon Crean said he and Indian counterpart Anand Sharma had endorsed the feasibility study, which found a deal would boost Australian gross domestic product by 32 billion US dollars over 20 years.
It also said Indian growth would increase by 34 billion dollars in the same period.
"The joint study ... makes a strong economic case that both Australia and India would gain significant economic benefits from a comprehensive FTA," Crean said in a statement.
"An FTA would open up trade, investment and job opportunities in both countries, (and) will continue the momentum of Australia?s economic integration with Asia — the fastest growing region in the world," he added.
Crean said India was Australia’s fastest-growing major two-way trading partner, expanding 55 percent in 2008/09, with exports rising by an average of more than 25 percent a year over the past five years.
"It is our fourth-biggest export market, up from 13th a decade ago," he said.
Asia is Australia’s key export market, with shipments to its biggest trading partner China helping it avoid slipping into recession.
According to the foreign affairs department two-way trade with China was worth 78.14 billion dollars (70.87 billion US) in 2009 underpinned by iron ore, coal, wool and copper exports.
Both governments must now take a formal decision to proceed with negotiations, but Crean said he and Sharma both accepted the study’s recommendation that they move towards an FTA.
Possible areas for agreement include minerals, energy, information and communication technology, education and training, tourism, financial and other services, agriculture and infrastructure.
Canberra is currently negotiating FTAs in North Asia with China, Japan and South Korea.