BAKU, Azerbaijan, June 8. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Australia last month, he and his counterpart Anthony Albanese reiterated their commitment to concluding CECA by the end of 2023, Trend reports.
June is shaping up as a busy month for crucial negotiations by India on three trade agreements – new pacts with the UK and the European Union (EU), and a stage-two comprehensive deal with Australia, officials aware of the developments said.
The fifth round of negotiations for the India-EU free trade agreement (FTA) will be held in New Delhi during June 19-23, while the tenth round of talks with the UK is set to conclude on June 9, the officials said, requesting anonymity. The fifth round of India-EU negotiations on an investment protection agreement will also be held in Delhi during June 26-29.
After operationalising the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) with Australia last December, the two partners are pursuing the next level of the deal, a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA). Schedules for the third and fourth rounds of negotiations for this have been finalised in the first half of this month (June 5-16) and the first half of next month (July 3-14), one of the officials said.
“The idea is to pave the way for early conclusion of the talks,” the official added. India and Australia are enhancing the scope of ECTA, signed on April 2, 2022, and ratified by parliaments of the two countries last November. As per the agreement, the deal came into force a month after the exchange of documents on December 29.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Australia last month, he and his counterpart Anthony Albanese reiterated their commitment to concluding CECA by the end of 2023.
CECA will take economic ties to a strategic level as Australia is expected to offer assured supplies of critical minerals such as lithium and cobalt without any disruption, the official said. The two sides held exploratory discussions covering 13 subjects at the second round held in Sydney during April 17-21.
The two sides will, however, have to deal with tricky issues such as Australia’s demand for greater access to India’s market for its wines and agricultural products, the officials said.
Australian high commissioner Barry O’Farrell said: “Negotiations for the Australia-India CECA are ongoing, building on the successes of our ECTA. Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Albanese have welcomed swift progress in negotiations and for an early conclusion of an ambitious CECA.”
Negotiations with Australia are progressing fast because a “highly successful” trade deal is already operational. However, the same pace is missing in talks with the EU because of the involvement of several stakeholders from the European bloc, a second official said.
The India-EU FTA negotiations were formally re-launched in June 2022 as a follow up to an announcement by the leadership of the two sides in May 2021. The talks cover 23 policy areas or chapters, and four rounds of negotiations, involving matters pertaining to goods and services, were completed till March, the officials said.
While the third round marked the beginning of real negotiations, the fourth round was aimed at speeding up work on texts and deepening mutual understanding of convergences and divergences between India and the EU. The fourth round also focused on the exchange of offers on market access in goods, services and investments, and participation in public procurements.
In the crucial area of digital trade, the two sides discussed 15 articles, including data flows, privacy, principles for access to and use of the internet for digital trade, and right to regulate, and there was “good progress” on several provisions, the officials said.