NEW DELHI: India and Australia are in talks for a bilateral free trade agreement, Minister of Foreign Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar it said on Wednesday, following New Delhi’s decision to exit a China-backed trade bloc.
“There is a discussion about a free trade agreement, a bilateral free trade agreement also because, as you know, we did not sign the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership),” Jaishankar said in an interview with the Australia-based Lowy Institute. , a foreign policy research group.
Fifteen Asia-Pacific economies signed the RCEP last month, forming the world’s largest free trade bloc that excludes the United States. India withdrew from the RCEP talks in November last year, but ASEAN leaders said the door remained open for him to join.
RCEP brings together the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
Jaishankar also said that India and Australia would have “very strong defense ties”, adding that he expected strong trade cooperation.
Last month, India, along with Australia, the United States and Japan, conducted their largest joint naval exercises in more than a decade, seen as part of efforts to balance China’s vast military and economic power in the region.