White paper asks Aus govt to engage with India on priority

Melbourne: Ahead of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's visit to India next month, a white paper submitted to the Australian government has sought early inking of an economic cooperation pact and urgent engagement with the new Indian government to reverse the dwindling bilateral trade.

PTI| Last Updated: Nov 12, 2014, 10:10 AM IST

Melbourne: Ahead of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's visit to India next month, a white paper submitted to the Australian government has sought early inking of an economic cooperation pact and urgent engagement with the new Indian government to reverse the dwindling bilateral trade.

Citing that there was an urgent need to reverse the declining trade with India which dropped by over 26 per cent between 2009 to 2013, the white paper titled 'The Australia- India Trade Relationship -- Past, Present and Future possibilities', sketched a blueprint for the federal government to take the bilateral relations to a higher level.

The white paper, a joint initiative of Australia India Business Council (AIBC) and Australia India Institute (AII), was presented to Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop in Sydney last week and is also expected to be presented to Prime Minister Abbott before his visit to India early next month.

The white paper has sought inking of?a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) on "top priority" and called for fast engagement with the new Narendra Modi-led government.

The white paper has suggested specific directions in which the government should proceed, breaking it industry-wise.

It also provides information on Modi as a leader, his government's economic policies and its major goals for Australia to understand where and how to invest in the relationship.

The paper has been released before the two global leaders meet this year.

Modi is expected to visit Brisbane for G20 summit in November this year after Abbott's visit next month.

The paper pin-pointed that despite improvements in political and strategic fronts, trade relations were declining and if steps were not taken to correct both nations would stand to lose.

"Since 2009, the value of Australia-India trade has fallen from 20 billion Australian dollars to 15 billion Australian dollars in 2013," the white paper said adding that "elevating relations to a strategic partnership has clearly not achieved one of the desired results."

"Australia should act quickly to take advantage of opportunities in India. Australia and India can both reverse the current declining trend in bilateral trade by engaging not only between governments but also at the business to business and business to consumer levels," it noted.