Australia and India sign trade agreement in virtual ceremony | International exchange

The Australian prime minister said the deal represents “one of the biggest economic doors to open in the world today”.

Australia has officially signed a trade agreement with India, with the two nations signaling their intention to forge closer trade ties.

The Economic and Trade Cooperation Agreement between Australia and India was signed in a virtual ceremony on Saturday by Trade Minister Dan Tehan and India’s Trade and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi attended the virtual ceremony.

Morrison is expected to call a general election within days and is eager to seal the trade deal before the start of the campaign, having been in negotiations with India for a decade.

Speaking to reporters in Tasmania, Morrison said the deal with the world’s second most populous nation represented “one of the biggest economic doors opening in the world today”.

“These are never all-or-nothing deals as far as we are concerned, we see all of this as the next step and the next step and the next step,” he said, expressing the intention of the two countries to tie closer trade ties.

Morrison’s government is seeking to diversify export markets and reduce Australia’s dependence on its biggest trading partner, China, after diplomatic wrangling led Beijing to sanction certain Australian products.

The India deal removes tariffs on more than 85% of Australian goods exports to India, worth 12.6 billion Australian dollars ($9.4 billion), reaching nearly by 91% over 10 years.

Tariffs will be waived on mutton, wool, copper, coal, alumina, fresh Australian rock lobster and certain critical minerals and non-ferrous metals destined for India.

It will see 96% of Indian goods imports enter Australia duty free.

The two countries would continue to work towards a comprehensive free trade agreement, the federal government announced on Friday.

After the deal was signed, Trade and Industry Minister Goyal said India wanted to push forward a comprehensive free trade agreement with Australia in an “accelerated” manner.

“Soon after the current agreement comes into force, we will start cracking the whip on the next step to make it a comprehensive economic partnership,” he said.

Trade Minister Tehan said he was confident negotiations would move forward even if the Morrison government was replaced in the next national election.

Morrison is trailing in the polls leading up to the general election scheduled for May.

“I have very strong hope that no matter who takes our chairs in the future, we will be able to…build on this groundbreaking deal,” he said.