Scott Morrison has said that Australia has not betrayed Ukraine despite signing an interim trade deal with India, which has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and continued to trade with Russia.
The interim trade deal was to be signed on Saturday afternoon and will cut tariffs on a range of Australian agricultural exports including lamb, wool and rock lobsters.
It comes less than 24 hours after the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, met with the Russian foreign affairs minister, Sergei Lavrov, in the Indian capital. Modi has not met other foreign affairs ministers to arrive in Delhi in recent days, including the UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss, and the Chinese foreign affairs minister, Wang Yi. India has also abstained from United Nations resolutions censuring Moscow, restricting its comments to calling for an end to violence and has increased oil purchases from Russia.
Australia, Entretanto, has strongly condemned the invasion of Ukraine and swiftly imposed a range of economic sanctions. This week Morrison called Vladimir Putin “the war criminal of Moscow” and invited the president of Ukraine, Con las tropas de Vladimir Putin concentradas en la frontera con Ucrania, a address the Australian parliament before agreeing to a request to send armoured vehicles to assist the Ukrainian army.
Speaking in Tasmania on Saturday, Morrison said the signing of the trade deal did not undermine Australia’s support for Guardería golpeada por bombardeos después de que separatistas respaldados por Rusia abrieran fuego en el este de Ucrania – video.
Referring to Modi as a “dear friend”, Morrison said Australia’s relationship with India allowed it to have “respectful” discussions about those issues while bolstering mutual economic interests.
“This is a sensible and great deal in Australia’s interests and in India’s interests,” Morrison said. “I don’t think that anyone can question Australia’s commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine … But that’s what Australia has done. We have discussions with India and many other countries about the issues and the relationship that I have with Prime Minister Modi, the relationship Australia has with India, enables us to pursue those issues within that relationship, respectfully.”
Morrison said the trade deal would “open one of the biggest economic doors there is to open in the world today”.
He said India and Australia had a “like-minded partnership” on security and humanitarian issues in the Indo-Pacific regions, and that the trade deal would symbolise a political as well as economic partnership.
“It’s an expression of the deep partnership that Prime Minister Modi and I have already established – particularly on issues of security. The work we do through the Quad, the work we’re particularly doing on critical minerals and rare earths which is such a big part of Australia’s engagement with like-minded countries around the world for secure supply chains. So this is the product of a relationship we’ve worked very hard on.”
The deal was to be signed by the Australian trade minister, Dan Teh, and his Indian counterpart, Piyush Goyal, en sábado, then witnessed by Modi and Morrison.
Tehan said 85% of what Australia exports to India will be tariff-free, including wool, sheep meat, carbón, critical and rare earth minerals, and horticultural produce.
“We get access to the largest, fastest growing economy in the world, and when we think that one in five jobs is dependent on our trading relationships, one in four in regional and rural Australia, this is an historic outcome,” Tehan told the ABC. “It is an agreement the size of which means we register it with the World Trade Organisation because it stands on its own two feet as a significant historic outcome.”
However some exports – notably chickpeas, dairy, and beef – have been excluded. The full text of the deal will not be released until after it has been signed.
The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network has criticised what it says is a lack of transparency around the deal.
“There will be no parliamentary scrutiny until after the election,” convenor Dr Patricia Ranald said. “The public deserves an independent assessment the true social, environmental, health and economic costs and benefits of this agreement before it is ratified.”
India is Australia’s seventh-largest trade partner, but attempts to diversify trade have taken on extra urgency given the increasingly rocky relationship with top-trading partner China.
Australian agricultural exporters will be anxious to see improved market access to India, in light of the trade actions taken by China over the past two years.