India Infoline News, 5 October 2005
India mulling FTA with Australia: Kamal Nath
India is exploring the possibility of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with Australia, of which a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) would be a component, Kamal Nath, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, said during discussions on Tuesday with Dr. Geoff Gallop, Premier of Western Australia.
Stating that such an agreement could cover trade in goods and services as well as investment, Kamal Nath indicated that he would discuss the matter with Mark Vaille, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Trade of Australia, on the sidelines of a WTO meeting scheduled in Geneva next week.
Both sides acknowledged that complementarities between the two economies would facilitate closer economic co-operation, especially with Western Australia, which accounts for over 40% of Australia’s total exports. This is first time that a Western Australian Premier is visiting India.
Gallop said that Western Australia was keen to cooperate with India in the field of oil and natural gas. He spoke of how closer relationship in this sector could facilitate the development of integrated supply of gas all over India which could transform the economy.
Kamal Nath conveyed India’s interest in cooperation with Australia in the hydro-carbon sector in the context of the large demand for natural gas in India and Australia’s sizeable gas resources.
He also noted that ONGC Videsh Ltd. had acquired participating interest in an oil and natural gas exploration in Western Australia and also opened an office at Perth. Other major Indian investments in Western Australia include by the Oswal Group and the Birla Group in different sectors.
The Commerce Minister also took up the issue of royalty in the context of continuing operations of the Australian diamond mining company Argyle. India sourced large quantities of rough diamonds from Western Australia and hence, the resolution of this issue would ensure availability of diamonds from Australian mines beyond the year 2008, he said.
"Eleven out of 12 pieces of diamond in any piece of jewellery in the world is cut and polished in India", Kamal Nath said, underlining the importance of this industry in providing employment to over a million people in India, especially in Gujarat. The Australian side flagged the issue of access for Australian wines in the Indian market. Kamal Nath mentioned that tariffs in India had been reduced considerably and would be down to ASEAN levels in a couple of years.