CANBERRA, AAP – Australia’s new trade minister has flagged support for India to help its agriculture sector in a bid to pave the way towards an aspirational trade deal with the Asian nation.
But farmers in India have been engaged in months-long protests against agricultural reforms, with recent rallies turning violent.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan says it’s an “incredibly difficult” situation, but he’s still hoping to begin discussions for a trade deal next month.
“My hope is we will be able to make some serious headway. It is not going to be easy,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.
Mr Tehan believes India wants to first ensure its key sectors, especially agriculture, are globally competitive before thinking about potential deals.
He has recently spoken to Grains Australia, with the idea floated of investing in India’s milling capacity.
“You might do that in ports which would enable us to be able to get our grain in to help their milling capacity,” the minister said.
“These are the types of suggestions we need to be putting to the Indian government as to how we can work with them, so we can build the capability of their agricultural sector and actually work with them and help them to develop it.”
Mr Tehan is hoping to finalise free trade deals with the UK and the European Union this year, with Israel next in his sight.
Bureaucrats are working on a scoping study for such a deal, which Mr Tehan wants finished mid-year.
The government is looking to diversify its trading relationships in the wake of China targeting key exports, including wine, beef, barley and lobster.
Mr Tehan is still waiting to hear back from his Chinese counterpart.