What has changed for India? It seems that having resisted trade deals for years, it now plans by the end of March 2022, to complete multiple quick-fire bilateral trade agreements.
Something has not changed however – the Indian government, distrustful of full scale FTA’s, is prioritizing “early harvest” pacts over comprehensive free trade agreements.
What has changed is the pandemic and the rise of China.
Therefore, the Indian government is focusing on strengthening the trade with G-7 nations with strong Indo-Pacific strategies and those with growing influence in central Asia such as the United Arab Emirates.
Australia, at a key position in the Indo-Pacific, is a high priority. As a fellow member of the QUAD, India and Australia have never been so close strategically and are keen to add trade now.
In large part, this is India’s push to do well as supply chain realignments take place – there is only a narrow window of opportunity to get these deals done.
How big is this? The government is negotiating bilateral trade agreements with 20 countries and expects to complete half a dozen deals, including those with Australia and Britain by this December and March 2022.
India is ambitious – Mr. Piyush Goyal has set kept a target of US$ 400 billion for annual merchandise exports – almost 38% higher than US$ 290 billion achieved in last year and plans to achieve US$ 2 trillion annual merchandise exports by the end of this decade.
Outcome? Lots of deals that will not be quite world class Free Trade Agreement (FTA) but which will have some wriggle room.