Indian minister’s Australia visit sparks free-trade agreement talks

India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley arrived in Australia for four days of government and investor talks.

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It’s the latest round of negotiations which started five years ago with a goal of establishing a free-trade agreement between the two countries.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently described finalising a free-trade agreement with India as a high priority.

Mr Jaitley said an economic agreement will be a central focus during his stay.

“The discussions are on for a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA),” he said.

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“And there are a few issues left on both sides which are being sorted out.

“I do hope some advance takes place in the coming months.”

Open trade talks are good news for IT professional Sreeni Pillamarri, who runs a software-testing company in Sydney, and recently opened a branch in the southern-Indian city of Hyderabad.

“Even being in Australia, we were able to set up our shop in India and we have since had quite a number of great projects,” he said.

“And there have been a lot of opportunities created after that.

“Companies who are established overseas are able to walk into India, set up themselves and start running for good business opportunities as well.”

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Mr Pillamarri said operating his business out of India has great financial potential.

“If you have seen the GDP (Gross domestic product) of India, it’s marvellous. It is growing at a speed of 27-35 per cent which is at the top level of any of the countries which are growing,” he said.

“China took a lot of time to grow to that level, where as India, it is sky-rocketing.”

University of New South Wales Economist Tim Harcourt said such a deal could have significant financial benefits for both countries.

“Really, India’s new to the scene but the potential is there with the young population and of course with the very strong institutional links that we have there,” he said.

India is Australia’s tenth largest trading partner and fifth largest export market.

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The federal government said the trading relationship between the two countries has seen remarkable growth in recent years, citing growth in the two-way trade of goods and services.

Independent modelling estimates an Australia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement could increase Australia’s GDP by over $45 billion over 20 years.

The government identifies a youthful population and a diversified economy as factors influencing opportunities for Australian business in the areas of agriculture, energy, manufacturing, mining and services sectors.