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Amid QUAD momentum, Modi meets former Australian PM Tony Abbot

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Amid the strengthening of the QUAD or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met Tony Abbott, former Australian Prime Minister and Special Envoy of Australian Prime Minister. Abbott, who has been in India since August 2, left today. Experts said that amid changing geopolitical and geoeconomics contours both countries are keen on concretising the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).

Modi in a tweet said, “Delighted to meet @HonTonyAbbott, Special Envoy of PM @ScottMorrisonMP. Had a good conversation on ways to further strengthen our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Also discussed the steps needed to energize our trade and economic relationship and boost people-to-people ties.”

India and Australia along with the US and Japan are part of the four-member QUAD.

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Under Modi and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who met virtually on June 4 last year, bilateral ties between India and Australia were elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

Under this umbrella, the two leaders underlined the need to encourage trade and investment flows for mutual benefit. They also decided to take up the issue of CECA

In 2020-21, while India’s exports to Australia stood at $4.04 billion, imports were $8.24 billion.

After India pulled out of the much-hyped Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), it has been exploring bilateral trade deals. Besides Australia, New Delhi is also expected to revive talks on a free trade agreement with the UK and also the EU.

India, which has not signed any free trade agreement since 2012, will push through bilateral trade agreements in the wake of the emerging geopolitical order instead of going in for multilateral deals, an insider told India Narrative.

Talks on the CECA between India and Australia began in May 2011. Until now there have been nine rounds of negotiations, the most recent of which was held in September 2015.

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“The Australian Government is putting its weight behind enhancing economic ties with India,” the country’s department for foreign affairs and trade noted.

So far nine rounds of negotiations have been held.

“As part of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between India and Australia, Prime Ministers Morrison and Modi decided to re-engage on a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) while suitably considering earlier bilateral discussions, where a mutually agreed way forward can be found,” the department added.