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Australia and India agree on strengthening economic, defense ties

Quad partners hail progress as Albanese meets Modi in New Delhi

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, left, arrives with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for a delegation-level meeting in New Delhi on March 10.     © AP

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -- Australia and India have agreed to accelerate a broader economic partnership and to boost their defense ties, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in New Delhi on Friday.

Last year the two countries signed a free trade deal called the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA), the first signed by India with a developed country in a decade.

However, a much larger Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement has been stuck in negotiations for over a decade. Discussions between the countries restarted in 2011 but were suspended in 2016 as the talks were gridlocked.

Negotiations resumed in 2021 but a deal has yet proved to be elusive.

"We also agreed on an early conclusion of our ambitious Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement as soon as possible and I am hopeful that we will be able to finalize that this year," Albanese, who is on a three-day visit to India, told reporters.

"This transformational deal will realize the full potential of the bilateral economic relationship, creating new employment opportunities and raising living standards for the people of both Australia and India."

Bilateral trade between the countries was $27.5 billion in 2021 and India says trade has the potential to nearly double to $50 billion in five years under the ECTA.

India and Australia are security partners through the Quad group, which also includes the United States and Japan.

Australia and India made "significant and ambitious" progress in strengthening defense and security ties and also discussed climate change issues, Albanese said.

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