Prabhu, Bishop discuss India-Australia economic cooperation


New Delhi/Canberra, Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu on Monday met Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and had "wide ranging discussions" on areas of mutual cooperation. Prabhu is in Australia for restarting negotiations on a comprehensive free trade deal that Prime Ministers Narandra Modi and Tony Abbot had agreed to sign four years ago. The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) aims to boost trade and investments between the two countries. During a visit to India in July, Bishop had said that both India and Australia must realise the full potential of bilateral trade. She said it is in services and agriculture where the two countries need to benefit from the trade agreement. Ahead of his visit, Prabhu also said that Australia could consider investing in India's agri sector infrastructure like cold storage and food processing which would be "a win win for both sides". Prabhu also held talks with Agriculture Minister David Littleproud. "We shall work together to strengthen cooperation in the area of agriculture," he said in a tweet. At another meeting with a business delegation from Australia and India, he urged the businesses to take forward the decisions of the two governments to further facilitate bilateral investment. India is Australia's tenth-largest trading partner, which experts say is low given its size and proximity. India's huge population and Australia's abundant minerals, energy and food production are seen as a good fit for closer economic ties. The Australia India Business Council estimates the benefits at $40 billion for both countries, led by education, resources and infrastructure. The Australian Financial Review in a report said Indian negotiators have offered a deal covering 68 per cent of existing tariffs, while Australia normally seeks at least 96 per cent and hopes for higher. And this makes a full trade deal difficult. The two countries have agreed to open capacity between the major airports.The liberalised air services arrangements are an important step for the Australia-India bilateral relationship, providing Australian businesses the opportunity to access a rapidly growing market, said Australia's trade ministry in a statement. The Turnbull Coalition Government has agreed to significantly open aviation arrangements with the world's fastest growing major economy, said the ministry. The recently settled Australia-India air services arrangements enable Australian airlines to operate unlimited services between Australia and the six major metropolitan airports in India and for Indian airlines to operate unlimited services between India and six airports in Australia. These air services arrangements provide a foundation for airlines to increase direct flights between Australia and India, in line with the growing scale and profile of the Indian market over the long term. As an island nation, Australia relies on international aviation to facilitate tourism, trade and maintain people-to-people links necessary for business growth.