‘Australia-India free trade pact has led to explosion of interest among businesses’

The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) has opened the minds of Australian companies, especially in Queensland, which accounts for about 75 per cent of Australia’s exports to India. The number of companies in the state with serious engagements and operations in India has nearly trebled in a short span of time, according to Stirling Hinchliffe, Minister for Sport, Innovation and Tourism, Queensland, Australia.

“Only a short time ago, there were about 50 Queensland companies that had serious engagements and operations with India. On the back of the Free Trade Agreement (Australia-India ECTA) that is now 150 and counting. So, it has opened the minds of Australian companies [towards India], and also opened the minds of Indians looking at Australia and Queensland. In a short period of time there is an explosion of interest. It also coincides with the significant milestone of India becoming the most populous nation,” said Hinchliffe in an interaction with a small group of reporters in New Delhi.

The Minister is currently on a five-day Mission to India, with a focus not only on the upcoming Brisbane 2032 Games and the accompanying opportunities, but also on long-term collaboration in education, innovation, and economic growth that benefits both India and Queensland. The visit marks a “significant step towards realising the Queensland-India Trade and Investment Strategy 2023–2027, underlining the immense importance of India to the state of Queensland”. 

ECTA impact

The Queensland-India Trade and Investment Strategy, launched in August this year, is a well researched strategy, based on what sectors have been positively impacted by the ECTA (implemented in December 2022), pointed out Abhinav Bhatia, Senior Trade & Investment Commissioner – South Asia at Trade and Investment Queensland.

“For instance, avocados were earlier not permitted in India, but are now allowed under the ECTA. Similarly, cosmetics, which had a 20 per cent import tariff, are now allowed at zero tariffs.

“There were several sectors positively impacted and we built a strategy for the 2023-27 period based on that. It gives companies on both sides the business case of why they should invest their time and energy in India and Queensland,” he said.

India was Queensland’s fourth-largest two-way merchandise trading partner in 2022, per the state. Queensland’s goods exports to India totalled Australian $ 21.8 billion in 2022, representing 74.6 per cent of Australia’s goods exports to India.

While the Australia-India ECTA, which was an interim pact, covered most of the goods traded between the two countries, there was scope of expanding opportunities in the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) being negotiated, said Bhatia.

“A lot of focus will now be on new energy sectors, green hydrogen, bio fuels..how we make the engagement deeper. Both India and Australia committed  to net zero target and and moving towards that. Since Australia and [more specifically] Queensland are very rich in critical minerals, we hope the CEPA will make those partnerships become more clear and evident,” he added.

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