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India and Australia signed a trade deal this week to boost economic ties in an effort to curb China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region, the Independent reported.
Leaders of both countries hailed the new Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement as “a watershed moment.”
The trade agreement aims to remove tariffs on more than 85 percent of Australian exports to India, while 96 percent of Indian imports to Australia will be duty-free.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the deal will generate trade diversification opportunities for domestic manufacturers and service providers bound for India.
His Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, added that it would facilitate the exchange of students, professionals and tourists to expand work, study and travel opportunities between the two countries.
The agreement is seen as a way for Australia to diversify its export markets and reduce its dependence on China, its biggest trading partner, Reuters noted. Both Australia and India have strained relations with Beijing.
Still, the signing also comes during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has placed India in an awkward position: The country has consistently called for a diplomatic solution while continuing to trade with Russia, despite pressure from Western nations – including Australia – to take a firmer stance on the matter.