The government has announced that India and Australia will aim for an early harvest trade deal by December 2021.
This was agreed upon in a meeting held between Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and his Australian counterpart Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, on August 26.
India had officially requested Australia to restart trade negotiations for the proposed Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) after a long lull.
An early harvest trade deal is one in which both parties sign off on a set of relatively easily achievable deliverables. Such pacts target specific goals such as tariff reduction and market access on select items while leaving more contentious items off the agenda.
Discussions on market access for Australian dairy products and meat, apart from Australia’s discomfort with opening up services exports, have proved to be major sticking points in the deal, talks on which had begun in 2011.
"The Ministers appreciated the progress made in three rounds of talks between the chief trade negotiators of both sides and discussed the way forward for an early conclusion of a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA)," the Commerce Department said.
In this regard, they directed officials to speed up the negotiations and to meet as often as required to achieve an early harvest announcement by December 2021 on an interim agreement to liberalise and deepen bilateral trade in goods and services, and pave the way for a comprehensive agreement.
While more than 13 rounds of negotiations have been completed so far, the government is now pushing to finalise talks soon after positive signals from Canberra.
A decision to begin consultations on the potential opportunities and impacts of an interim agreement as a pathway to a full CECA was also taken.
The ministers look forward to a balanced trade agreement that encourages expanded trade and investment flow to the benefit of both economies and peoples, and that reflects the shared commitment to the rules-based international trading system.India is negotiating multiple trade deals with other nations, notably including the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom. Given the complications of foreign trade negotiations among large, complex economic powers, a common thread in these talks is that they are 'early harvest' trade pacts. For the EU this would be India's strict data protection laws, while for the US taxation of digital giants is a point of disagreement.