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India-Australia trade pact pushes back against 'panda in the room'

Long-stalled deal came together as Quad partners aim to cut dependence on China

A container ship off Mumbai. The India-Australia deal is expected to almost double bilateral annual trade in the next five years.   © Reuters

NEW DELHI -- India and Australia sealed an interim free trade deal early this month after over a decade of on-and-off negotiations. As they signed on the dotted line, each side appears to have had one eye on China.

The agreement offers obvious economic benefits. Annual bilateral trade is expected to almost double from $27.5 billion in 2021 to about $45 billion or $50 billion in the next five years. The deal eliminates tariffs on over 85% of Australian exports to India -- rising to 91% in a decade -- while 96% of Indian goods entering Australia will become duty-free.

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