Aust, India sign ‘watershed’ trade deal

A watershed trade deal with India will ensure Australian exporters have access to one of the world’s largest economies, the prime minister says.

The deal, signed on Saturday, will see tariffs eliminated on more than 85 per cent of Australian goods exported to India, currently worth more than $12 billion a year.

Some 96 per cent of Indian goods entering Australia will also be made duty-free.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said many countries have tried to do business with India, but only Australia has been able to secure an agreement.

“We are opening the biggest door to one of the biggest economies in the world,” Mr Morrison told reporters on Saturday.

“It unlocks significant opportunities for Australia … whether it’s in berries or whether it’s in wool. They’re all real benefits.”

Trade Minister Dan Tehan and his Indian counterpart Piyush Goyal signed off on the deal in a virtual ceremony on Saturday afternoon.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined the call, crediting former prime minister Tony Abbott for accelerating the deal as Mr Morrison’s special trade envoy to India.

“This is truly a watershed moment for our bilateral relations,” he said.

Mr Morrison phoned in from Launceston in Tasmania, describing Mr Modi as a close friend and India as a like-minded democracy.

As part of the deal, tariffs on products such as sheep meat and wool will be eliminated straight away, while tariffs for products like avocados, onions, nuts and fruits will be phased out over the next seven years.

Tariffs on wine will also be reduced, while the resources sector will see tariffs on products like coal and metallic ores eliminated on entry.

Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said while Labor was not consulted on the agreement, the party welcomed it.

“I welcome a deepening of that relationship and it would be very much a focus of a government I lead,” he said.

Two-way trade between Australia and India is currently valued at more than $24 billion.

Negotiations on the Australian-India economic cooperation and trade agreement had been ongoing for more than a decade, with the first round of talks between the countries taking place in 2011.

The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network said the deal should be independently evaluated.

“As usual the text is only being released after signing and the devil will be in the detail. There will be no parliamentary scrutiny until after the election,” AFTINET Convenor Dr Patricia Ranald said.

But Mr Tehan said the deal was a “significant win” for Australian exporters.

“We get access to the largest, fastest growing economy in the world,” he told the ABC on Saturday morning.

“By tying our two economies together, it does help provide an important ballast for the geo-strategic competition we are seeing in the Indo-Pacific.

“The more we can tie ourselves with India… the better for our long-term future and the better for stability in the Indo-Pacific.”

In addition, the trade deal is set to benefit the education and tourism sectors.

Both countries will recognise each other’s professional qualifications, licensing and registration procedures, while 1000 working holiday places will be set aside for Indian residents within two years as part of new measures.

© AAP 2022