Source: Economic Times

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 G20 Summit this weekend in Brisbane. Modi is the first Indian prime minister to visit Australia in the last 28 years.

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.