India and Australia move closer to a free trade agreement
Melbourne | May 24, 2005
As Trade Ministers of India and Australia begins the next round of talks, technology sector would be in focus as both the countries would be moving towards a possible free trade regime.
Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath and Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile have indicated that both the countries would beign discussions on a trade and economic framework, leading to possible free trade agreement (FTA). Both the ministers are expected to complete the framework of FTA on time for Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s visit to India, scheduled for July this year. Sydney is attaching great importance to the visit of Howard as it considers New Delhi as a strategic power in the region.
"India’s growing strategic importance and continued economic expansion mean it is set to become one of Australia’s key regional and bilateral partners," The Australian quoted Vaile as saying at the ninth Australia-India joint ministerial committee meeting here last week.
Bilateral trade between the two countries, both in goods and services, is pegged at $7.4 billion, making India 13th largest trading partner with Australia.
Vaile said India was one of Australia’s fast-growing trade markets and there were already strong links between the technology and communications sectors of both the countries.
"Many Australian companies have explored the Indian market and some of them have set up a presence in India recognising complementarity in skill and cost structures," Valie said. The TATA Consultancy Services have its development operations in Australia.
Valie said Australian companies, with skills in hi-tech and value-added ICT solutions could wed the impressive software development and implementation skills of Indian IT manpower.
He said said closer co-operation presented opportunities for more technology-based joint ventures and collaboration between the two countries.
Kamal Nath said the trade and economic framework was potentially more important than a free trade agreement, which tended to focus on goods rather than services.
"We are looking at much greater economic engagement in technology, mining, investment and services," he said.
Australia is the third most popular destination for Indians studying abroad, and is Australia’s top offshore source of postgraduate enrolments, and the top-ranked source of computing science and engineering students from overseas.
The joint ministerial meeting included a discussion of migration issues, particularly in relation to skills migration and the student visa system. (ANI)