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Australia Signs Economic Accord with India

SYDNEY — A historic deal between India and Australia has many business leaders cheering, but industries left out of the agreement are urging Canberra to continue negotiations.

The interim pact announced Saturday comes after more than a decade of talks and analysts have said that Australia is eager to reduce its reliance on China — its biggest trading partner — after diplomatic tensions in recent years prompted Beijing to impose sanctions on some Australian goods.

Australian coal, wine and other commodities have been hit by various restrictions introduced by Chinese authorities. This dispute stems, in part, from Australia’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19. Beijing interpreted the demand as criticism of its handling of the virus that was first detected in Wuhan, China.

The agreement with India is an attempt by Australia to diversify its commercial ties.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government had not betrayed Ukraine by signing a trade deal with India, which has refused to condemn the Russian invasion.

Morrison said his government had discussed the war in Ukraine with India, adding that he did not think “that anyone can question Australia’s commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine” after Canberra imposed various sanctions and agreed to supply missiles.

The trade deal removes tariffs on more than 85% of Australian exports to India, including coal, wool and copper. It covers more than 95% of Indian goods imported by Australia, such as textiles, leather and jewelry.

Prime minister Scott Morrison said Saturday that the agreement would boost Australian prosperity.

“We open one of the biggest economic doors there is to open in the world today,” Morrison said. “We have been working on this for many years; (the) last three-a-half-years in particular. We are opening the biggest door of one of the biggest economies in the world in India.”

However, some agricultural industries including dairy, chickpeas and beef were left out of the interim agreement.

Rick Gladigau, president of the Australian Dairy Industry Council, hopes that a comprehensive free trade agreement will help local dairy farmers.

“Something would be better than nothing to start with. You do not want to be left completely out of a free trade agreement,” Gladigau said. “This is why we are doing them for, so that there [are] benefits going both ways. I do not want to see that dairy gets nothing.”

Both countries will continue to work towards a full free trade agreement.

India is Australia’s seventh-largest trade partner. Two-way trade in goods and services was worth $18.3 billion in 2020.

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