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Australia seeks free trade deal with India

Australia wants a free trade agreement (FTA) with India, its fourth largest export market and second largest source of overseas students as well as long-stay business visitors.

business Updated: Aug 20, 2007 15:32 IST

Australia wants a free trade agreement (FTA) with India, its fourth largest export market and second largest source of overseas students as well as long-stay business visitors, news reports said on Monday.

Australia has FTAs with New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and the US. It is in talks to have an FTA with Malaysia, with Middle Eastern countries and with Japan and China.

Controversially, the landmark deal done with the US excluded sugar - establishing a precedent that FTAs would not always be truly comprehensive.

"Trade pacts with India, China, Japan, and the US would give Australia almost a complete hand of interlocking treaties with its most important partners and the world's most dynamic economies," The Australian daily commented.

"These agreements also provide an important defensive barrier for Australia against any rise in international protectionism and they are an important advance in trading opportunities for Australian companies in the absence of a successful conclusion of the Doha Round of World Trade Organisation negotiations," the paper added.

Australia last week announced the lifting of a ban on uranium sale to India.

Prime Minister John Howard decided it didn't make sense to ban uranium exports to India when it had recently agreed to ship uranium to China.

The sticking point with India has been its refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). China is an NPT signatory.

Canberra has decided to follow the lead of the US and skirt the NPT requirement by striking a bilateral safeguards agreement.

Under the agreement India would be required to separate its peaceful nuclear energy programme from its nuclear weapons programme and Australian uranium would go only to its peaceful nuclear energy power plants.