India free-trade agreement struck after decade of talks but dairy and grain disappointed
AFTER more than a decade of negotiations, Australia has finally struck an extensive trade deal with India, but dairy and grains representatives say their industries were glaring omissions from the deal.
India is a market of over 1.3 billion people with a young population and growing middle class, and Australia's two-way trade is already valued at more than $24 billion annually.
Tariffs will be eliminated on more than 85 per cent of Australian goods to export, rising to 91pc over the next decade, but the dairy and grains industry said the interim free-trade agreement was a missed opportunity.
Australian Dairy Industry Council chair Rick Gladigau said it was a disappointment to see no increased market access for the industry and called on the sector to take centre stage in the final FTA, which the government aims to finalise by the end of the year.
"It is regrettable that a substantial industry such as dairy should be largely left off the table in trade negotiations," Mr Gladigau said.
The interim FTA is largely "business as usual" for the grains sector. The deal offers some potential benefits for Australian lentils, and over time will see benefits for faba beans, canola oil and soybeans, but GrainGrowers chair Brett Hosking said the industry was hoping for much more.
"The details of the interim free trade agreement with India are a little frustrating given the enormous potential for exports, particularly our chickpeas into this market," Mr Hosking said.
"Having spoken to many growers across the country, we were hoping for a more positive result for Australian chickpeas and wheat.
"Australian growers are perfectly positioned to be able to support the Indian population through [chickpea] shortages, although under this FTA that won't be an option."
Despite the concern, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud pointed out the interim deal covered 90pc of the nation's current agriculture exports to India, and Australia would be seeking to secure even broader outcomes in the final FTA.
"Importantly, the agreement will provide new diversification opportunities for Australian agriculture into this hugely important and growing market," Mr Littleproud said.
"High tariffs on most agriculture products have to-date limited opportunities for Australian farmers to access this dynamic market."
National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said although it was disappointing many commodities missed out on better market access, the tariff reductions secured in the interim deal were a step in the right direction.
Sheep meat and wool, both of which already command a significant portion of the Indian market, were the biggest winners. Sheep meat tariffs, currently sitting at 30pc, will be eliminated, while wool will have its 2.5pc tariffs eliminated.
Tariffs of up to 30 per cent will be eliminated over seven years on avocados, onions, broad, kidney and adzuki beans, cherries, shelled pistachios, macadamias, cashews in-shell, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.
The horticulture industry will also benefit from reduced tariffs for almonds, oranges, mandarins, pears, apricots and strawberries.
Wine tariffs for bottles valued US$5 will be dropped from 150pc to 100pc, then reduced to 50pc over 10 years, while US$15 bottles will see tariffs dropped to 75pc, then to 25pc over a decade.
The deal will make it cheaper and easier for Australia to import chemicals, including pesticides, from India.
India has also been invited to participate in the new Agriculture Visa. Last week, Vietnam became the first country to sign up to the program.
Jamieson Murphy (2022, April 5). India free-trade agreement struck after decade of talks but dairy and grain disappointed. farmonline. https://www.farmonline.com.au/story/7685303/india-deal-struck-after-decade-of-talks-but-dairy-and-grain-let-down/?cs=4704