India and Australia are confident of sealing an early harvest trade deal by the year end or early next month, which could include some market access concessions for Australian wines, Canberra’s special envoy to India and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Friday.
Mr. Abbott, who met Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday, said a good trade deal with India would not only strengthen the Quad but also set the tone for more such pacts between Australia, India and other major trading nations.
Accusing China of ‘weaponising’ trade in recent years, Mr. Abbott, who was the Prime Minister when Australia signed a comprehensive free trade deal with China, said the Asian nation’s current trade tensions with many countries provide an opportunity for India to emerge as a reliable substitute in global supply chains.
“And what we’ve seen from China, particularly us in Australia, is we’ve seen the weaponisation of trade, something like $20 billion worth of Australian trade has been arbitrarily disrupted, or suspended by China. It’s very difficult under these circumstances to see China as a trusted partner,” he said.
“India is in a very different situation, with democracy, the rule of law and a good understanding that business and government are substantially independent of each other and the sanctity of contracts has to be respected. So, this is why I think that the difficulties with China certainly mean that India has quite a unique opportunity to step in, particularly with supply chains that need to be absolutely reliable,” Mr. Abbott said.
Terming the meeting with Mr. Goyal productive, he said that both sides were confident of a ‘very good, larger-rather-than-smaller’ early harvest trade deal by the end of this month or early next month, with a bigger Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to be concluded in 2022. There is very ‘high ambition’ from the Australian side as no other country can make a bigger contribution to the ‘Make In India’ initiative, the Australian envoy added.
While India’s agriculture concerns could be protected through carve-outs in the FTA, Mr. Abbott said he hoped to ‘make progress’ on import duties on Australian wines in the early accord.
“I think anyone who currently enjoys Australian wine knows just how good it is. And I am hoping that more and more people will have an affordable opportunity to experience this great Australian product in the months and years ahead,“ he said.
“I want to stress that Australia is not a predatory trader, we are a free and fair trader. And our objective... is to partner,” he emphasised.