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Posted on Jan 30, 04:00PM | IBNS
New Delhi, Jan 30 : The 14th Session of the India - Australia Joint Ministerial Commission was convened on Tuesday, co-chaired by Commerce, Industry and Textiles Minister Anand Sharma and Australian Minister for Trade and Competitiveness and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Asian Century Policy Dr. Craig Emerson.
The Ministers welcomed the positive momentum in the India-Australia relationship based on shared values, converging interests and growth in economic links.
The successful state visit to India by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in October 2012 underlined both countries' deep commitment to advance the Strategic Partnership agreed in November, 2009.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Australia Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator Bob Carr held the 8th Foreign Ministers' Framework Dialogue on the Jan 21 to review the bilateral relations and build on the momentum achieved by Gillard's visit.
The two countries also met at Ministerial level to advance Agriculture, Energy, Education and Science and Technology links.
Sharma and Emerson emphasised the importance of closer trade and investment relations as a critical component of the strategic partnership.
The Ministers underlined the importance of a solid institutional framework to facilitate future growth in bilateral trade and investment. In this context, they highlighted the priority they placed on the conclusion of a mutually beneficial Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).
The Ministers also welcomed progress through four rounds of negotiations to date, including the exchange of goods offers.
They looked forward to a future exchange offers on services.
The Ministers reiterated that a comprehensive, high quality equitable agreement would broaden the base of merchandise trade, remove non-tariff barriers that impede trade in services, and facilitate and encourage investment.
They welcomed the growth in the bilateral investment relationship and agreed on the importance of strong bilateral investment flows particularly in priority areas such as mining, advanced manufacturing, infrastructure, clean technology and tourism.
Both parties recognized the critical role played by industry in driving trade and investment between the two countries.
In this regard, they expressed their strong support for the initiatives of the India Australia CEO Forum, co-chaired by Lindsay Fox AC and Naveen Jindal.
Sharma and Emerson welcomed the outcomes from the second forum meeting on Oct 16, 2012 held in New Delhi including agreement to promote skills training, increased mutual cooperation on infrastructure development, promotion of services trade, and the creation of investment champions to identify opportunities and navigate government processes.
The Ministers commended the important work under way in the Forum and welcomed the third meeting of the Forum to be held in Australia in March.
They discussed Australia and India's mutual interests in the effectiveness of global and regional economic institutions.
Emerson took the opportunity to brief Sharma on the 2012 White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century.
Emerson highlighted the importance Australia placed on working with regional partners such as India.
Sharma welcomed the prominent role accorded to India in the White Paper and highlighted India's increased economic engagement with Asia through its network of regional agreements and growing trade and investment.
The Ministers welcomed the launch of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations towards a modern, comprehensive, high quality, and mutually beneficial regional economic partnership agreement.
They discussed their mutual commitment to strengthening the East Asia Summit (EAS) as a forum that incorporated all the major economies in the India-Pacific region.
They discussed the importance of consolidating the G20 as the pre-eminent global economic forum.
They welcomed the role played by the G20 as a driver of global economic stability and prosperity in the context of the continued fragility of the global economic environment. G20 leaders recognised at Los Cabos the importance of an open, predictable, rules-based, transparent multilateral trading system and the centrality of the WTO to it.
Emerson outlined Australia's priorities as host of the G20 in 2014, including fostering private sector-led growth and investment in infrastructure and the energy sector.
In this context, Sharma noted India's need for USD 1 trillion in infrastructure investment by 2017 and the possible opportunities for Australian investment and expertise in infrastructure development.
The Ministers underlined their commitment to reinforce the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), both during India's remaining period as chair and Australia's two year term as chair from November 2013.
In particular, they commended the work being done in IOR-ARC on trade facilitation, customs cooperation and business-to-business cooperation, as useful practical steps towards greater regional trade and economic cooperation.
The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to finding ways to break through the current impasse in the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations.
They expressed disappointment that it had not been possible to conclude the Doha Development Agenda to date, but agreed on the importance of moving the process forward, particularly in the current global economic environment.
They also agreed on the need to resist rising protectionist pressures.
The Ministers welcomed the inaugural Ministerial-level dialogue on energy security in December 2012 as a significant step in developing a strategic relationship on energy and resources.
They also welcomed the decision of the Australian Government on uranium exports to India, and the announcement to commence negotiations on a bilateral civil nuclear energy cooperation agreement in March 2013.
The Ministers acknowledged the critical importance of education and skills development in helping to achieve both countries' targets for innovation, productivity and economic growth and welcomed efforts underway to strengthen the bilateral knowledge partnership.
In particular, they commended the growing collaboration under the auspices of the Australia-India Education Council between India's nascent Sector Skills Councils and Australia's Industry Skills Councils on standards and approaches to vocational training.
They recognised that education presents one of the most valuable opportunities for both the countries to lay the foundation for an enduring partnership with enormous opportunities to deepen collaboration between institutions across the education and training sectors, business and industry.
The Ministers noted the contribution of the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.
They highlighted research work underway to lift agricultural productivity and make crops more disease-resistant.
The two Ministers recognized the potential for greater focus and collaboration in food security, including through enhanced agricultural trade and investment.
Sharma encouraged greater Australian investment in the Indian agriculture sector, including for cold chains and storage and logistics management of agriculture and horticulture produce.
They noted the significant growth in the bilateral agricultural cooperation, including the establishment and first meeting of the Joint Working Group on Agriculture held in New Delhi in September and the proposed first meeting of the Joint Working Group on Wool and Woollen products in February 2013.
They announced plans for Australia and India to host a regional Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) workshop in 2013. They also commended the work by both countries in improving market access for meat and horticultural products.
The Ministers agreed on the important role of people-to-people links in the expanding bilateral relationship.
Emerson noted that India represented last year the largest source of skilled migration to Australia and the second largest source of international students. Bilateral tourism was also growing at a rapid rate, with around 150,000 visitors travelling in each direction over the last twelve months.
The Ministers warmly welcomed the success of Oz Fest, Australia's largest ever cultural festival in India including educational and business events in 18 locations all over India.
Both the countries felt that direct flights between India and Australia would provide a further boost to bilateral engagement.
The Ministers agreed that the next Joint Ministerial Commission will be held in Australia in 2014.