India and Australia strengthen economic ties, aim for deeper integration

One significant outcome of the JCM was the establishment of an institutional mechanism for the regular exchange of preferential import data on a monthly basis – a first-of-its-kind initiative for free trade agreements (FTAs). 

India and Australia have reinforced their commitment to fostering a robust and mutually beneficial economic relationship, paving the way for enhanced cooperation and prosperity for both nations. During a recent Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) under the India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (Ind-Aus ECTA), the two sides engaged in constructive discussions on various trade and prospective investment-related issues.

The meeting, held in Canberra, served as a vital platform for further strengthening trade ties and exploring new opportunities for bilateral economic cooperation. Key areas of focus included trade facilitation, investment promotion, cooperation in technology, and addressing market access issues for products such as okra, pomegranate, grapes, cottage cheese, macadamia nuts, lentils, and avocado.

One significant outcome of the JCM was the establishment of an institutional mechanism for the regular exchange of preferential import data on a monthly basis – a first-of-its-kind initiative for free trade agreements (FTAs).

Discussions also centred on promoting collaboration in various sectors, including coastal tourism, critical minerals, and the establishment of disease-free zones for shrimps and prawns in India. Additionally, the meeting addressed critical service issues, such as facilitating cross-border e-payments and exploring mutual recognition agreements in professions like nursing and dentistry.

The commitment to remove the Economic Needs Test/Labor Market Testing (ENT/LMT) requirement in line with the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement was reiterated, with a focus on facilitating the mobility of healthcare workers between the two nations and promoting telemedicine.

Parallel to the JCM, chief negotiators from both sides reviewed the progress made after nine rounds of India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) negotiations. They explored avenues for effective cooperation in various sectors, aiming to go beyond the traditional approach to FTAs and achieve a deeper integration of the economies.

The meetings also touched upon World Trade Organization (WTO) issues, with India emphasizing the importance of Australia’s support for an early resolution of the long-pending issue of a permanent solution to public stockholding (PSH). Australia, in turn, sought India’s support for the plurilateral arrangement for domestic support for services.

Interactions with businesses and business associations, including the Australia India Business Council and Chambers of Commerce in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), revealed a shared eagerness to collaborate on capacity building, vocational training, hiring of skilled professionals and caretakers, skill gap mapping, mutual recognition of standards, and collaboration in critical areas such as critical minerals, digital connectivity, finance, education, agriculture, dairy and food processing, transport and storage, sports, pharmaceuticals, silicon wafers, space, and medical equipment.