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BW Businessworld

Australia Wants FTA With India Within A Year

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Asserting that it was time to commence work with India on a bilateral free trade agreement, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said Australia is keen on inking the deal within a year.
He said the immediate priority was to seal the free trade deal with China that has been under negotiation since 2005 that is expected to be signed when President Xi Jinping is in Australia for the G20 this weekend.
"I think that once that's done, obviously we would want to focus on the India deal and it would be terrific if we could get that done within 12 months," Abbott was quoted as saying by local daily The Australian.
Asked if it was the time to commence work with India on bilateral trade agreement, Abbott said, "Yes, it certainly is. Prime Minister Modi was very enthusiastic about cracking on with this when I was in India a couple of months back. Very, very enthusiastic." 
Modi ahead of the G20 Summit has said, "While we have much in common with Australia, our political, strategic and economic relations have been below potential." 
Abbott and Modi are set to meet at the  G20 Summit in Brisbane from November 15 to 16 . Modi is the first Indian prime minister to visit Australia in the last 28 years.
Modi is set to meet top Australian business leaders, including BHP Billiton CEO Andrew Mackenzie and HSBC Bank Australia CEO Tony Cripps, at a roundtable in Melbourne next week.
According to Amitabh Mattoo, inaugural director of an influential think tank Australia India Institute (AII) here, Modi's Australian visit would promise to be the most important ever made by an Indian prime minister for both countries' bilateral relations.
"Prime Ministers Abbott and Modi have the chance to transform the bilateral relationship between their countries from one characterised by missed opportunities into a genuine strategic partnership," Mattoo wrote in a local newspaper here.
"The Australia-India relationship is clearly an idea whose time has come, but it will require political nurturing before it acquires a momentum of its own. Fortunately, Modi and Abbott have bonded well," he said.
Meeting Business Leaders
Modi's meeting with Australian business leaders will take place on November 18.
Governor of Victoria Alex Chernov is hosting the chief executives' roundtable during which the visiting Indian leader would interact with the who's who of the Australian industry and business houses.
Top Australian business leaders, including Visy Industries global chairman Anthony Pratt, BHP Billiton CEO Mackenzie, Rio Tinto (Australia) MD Phil Edmands and HSBC Bank (Australia) CEO Cripps, will attend the roundtable.
The meeting would also be attended by almost 20 top Indian industry leaders including Chairman of Essar Group Shashi Ruia, Gautam Adani of Adani group, Anand Mahindra of Mahindra Group, BP Rao of BHEL and Vishal Sikka of Infosys Ltd.
Other CEOs who will be part of the roundtable include ONGC CMD Dinesh K Sarraf, Chariman Emeritus of Torrent Pharmaceuticals Ltd Sudhir Mehta, Chairman of Lanco Infrastructure L Madhusudhan Rao, President of SP Jain School of Global Management Nitish Jain, CMD of Gujarat NRE Coke Ltd Arun Kumar Jagatramka and Austalia India Institute director Amitabh Mattoo.
Members of Business Council of Australia including Chief executive Jennifer Westacott would also attend the roundtable.
It is understood that during the meeting, industry leaders would be given an opportunity to discuss matters relating to their businesses and future plans.
Modi would also be invited to sign the visitor's book in the governor's hall.
After the roundtable, Modi will address a large group of over 500 Australian Indian business leaders and deliver a speech.
Later in the evening, Modi would visit the Melbourne Cricket Ground where Abbott is hosting a reception for 1,000 select guests.
He will also become the first Indian Prime Minister to address the Australian Parliament during his visit.