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Australia hopeful of securing FTA with India in 2015: Trade min

Australia is hopeful of securing a high-quality free trade agreement with India this year, trade minister Andrew Robb said Friday , even as he blamed “bureaucratic hindrance” for the low trade with India as compared to China.

Robb, who is leading the largest-ever business delegation to India for a eight-day long mission from January 9-16, said that trade ties with India, standing at 15.2 billion Australian dollars, have been a fraction of what it could be as compared to China.

Referring to the free trade agreement (FTA) with India, Robb said, “We want to see a really meaningful agreement. We won’t sign an agreement for agreement’s sake.”

“These things are eminently possible,” Robb said, adding,?”I do feel with the political leadership in both countries being hellbent on finalising this in 12 months, that is a very major factor in its achievement.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi have both said they want a free trade deal finalised by the end of 2015.

Praising Prime Minister Modi, Robb said, he can drive a “cultural change” within the Indian public service and bureaucracy to make it a more business friendly country.

“If prime minister Modi is able to repeat his success as chief minister in running the state of Gujarat then India is on the cusp of a very significant transformation, a huge economic step forward,” Robb said.

“Increasing trade in services will be a priority of free trade negotiations. They are very keen to further grow our educational relationship which is already a significant one,” the minister said.

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