Australia and India will push for a free trade pact between their countries, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday, after the two leaders talked at length over a host of issues ranging from nuclear energy and defence ties to cultural exchanges.
Australia on Monday finalised a landmark free trade deal with China, significantly expanding its ties with the world's second-largest economy (See: After 10 years of talks, Australia signs free trade pact with China).
Trade between Australia and India currently stands at around $15 billion a year, or just a tenth of that between Australia and China.
"We want to go further and that's why the next priority for Australia is a comprehensive economic partnership agreement with India," Abbott said.
"If I may say so, this is a moment in time. This is the time to get this done."
"We have agreed to speed up negotiations on the comprehensive economic partnership agreement," Modi said. "I also asked for easier access for Indian business to the Australian market and quicker investment approvals."
"We also agreed on seeking early closure on the civil nuclear agreement, which will give Australia a chance to participate in one of the most secure and safe nuclear energy programme in the world."
Australia sealed a civil nuclear deal to sell uranium to India in September and also offered to increase supplies of conventional fuel to help India overcome chronic shortages.
Talks towards the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement began about two years ago after Australia lifted a long-standing ban on selling uranium to energy-starved India.
Modi last night addressed thousands of expatriate Indians at a packed 21,000 seat arena in Sydney that just last week hosted the Rolling Stones, underscoring the rock star status he enjoys among some Indians at home and abroad.
Modi, who arrived on Friday for the G20 economic summit in Australia, where about 300,000 Indians live, urged Indians to boost investment at home.
Australia is emerging as a key source of thermal coal for India`s growing number of electricity users.
Indian trade and infrastructure conglomerate Adani Enterprises has signed a pact for a loan of up to $1 billion from the State Bank of India for a $6 billion Australian coal mine, rail and port project.