The Australian Prime Minister said the deal represented ‘one of the greatest economic doors that can open in the world today’.
Australia has officially signed a trade agreement with India, with the two nations signaling their intention to establish closer trade ties.
The Australia-India Economic and Trade Cooperation Agreement was signed by Trade Minister Dan Tehan and India’s Minister of Trade & Industry, Piyush Goyal, in a virtual ceremony on Saturday.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi witnessed the virtual ceremony.
Morrison is expected to call a general election within the next few days and has been eager to secure a trade deal before the campaign begins, he has been negotiating with India for a decade.
Speaking to reporters in Tasmania, Morrison said the deal with the world’s second most populous nation represented “one of the largest economic doors open in the world today”.
“This was never an all-or-nothing deal for us, we see all of this as the next step and the next step and the next step,” he said, expressing intention to build closer trade links of both countries.
Morrison’s government is looking to diversify its export markets and reduce Australia’s dependence on its biggest trading partner China. after the diplomatic side took the lead to Beijing to sanction some Australian products.
The deal with India removes tariffs on more than 85% of Australian goods exported to India, worth A$12.6 billion ($9.4 billion), an increase of nearly 91% in 10 years.
Tariffs will be eliminated on Australian lamb, wool, copper, coal, alumina, fresh rock lobster, and certain minerals and non-ferrous metals important to India.
It will see 96% of Indian goods imported into Australia duty free.
The federal government said both countries would continue working toward a full free trade agreement on Friday.
After signing the agreement, Trade & Industry Minister Goyal said India wanted to proceed with a full free trade agreement with Australia “quickly”.
“As soon as this current agreement comes into effect, we will begin to crack the whip in the next phase of making this a full-blown economic partnership,” he said.
Trade Minister Tehan said he was confident negotiations would progress even if the Morrison government was replaced at the upcoming national election.
Morrison is behind the polls leading up to a general election in May.
“I have great hope, no matter who will take our seats going forward, we will be able to… build on this ground-breaking agreement,” he said.