Australia says it didn’t betray Ukraine with new trade deal — Analysis
Canberra’s agreement with New Delhi, approved by Scott Morrison, comes despite India’s refusal to denounce Russia
Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister has supported a recent trade agreement signed with India. Morrison said the decision to foster relations with a country that has refused to denounce Russia’s military campaign against Ukraine does not undermine Canberra’s support for Kiev.
The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement was signed by Australia’s trade minister, Dan Tehan, and India’s minister of commerce and industry, Piyush Goyal, on Saturday afternoon in a virtual ceremony witnessed by the prime ministers of both countries, Morrison and Narendra Modi.
The agreement, which includes a reduction in tariffs for a variety of Australian exports from Australia to India including coal, lentils and lobsters as well as rare earths, also cuts tariffs. The Morrison government hailed the deal as a significant milestone in diversifying Australia’s export markets and reducing its dependence on China.
It was less than 24 hour after Indian Prime Minister received Sergey Lavrov from Russia, which led to the signing of the agreement. India has so far refused to unequivocally condemn Russia’s military offensive against Ukraine, opting to merely call for an end to the violence. In early March, New Delhi abstained from a UN resolution condemning Russia’s “aggression.” Weeks later, however, on March 24, India also abstained from a UN resolution proposed by Russia.
Commenting on the Australia-India accord in Tasmania on Saturday, Morrison insisted that the newly signed document “is a sensible and great deal in Australia’s interests and in India’s interests,” adding that he did not think “anyone can question Australia’s commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine.”
The trade deal will “One of the most important economic opportunities in the world is now open.” the prime minister said. According to Morrison, closer ties will allow Canberra and New Delhi to discuss various issues “Respectfully, in this relationship.”
On Wednesday, Trade Minister Tehan, who signed the deal with India a few days later, reminded New Delhi that it’s important for democracies to work together “to keep the rules-based approach that we’ve had since the second world war.” His statement echoed that of US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo made the same day, with both Washington and Canberra expressing concern over India’s willingness to conduct trade with Russia in their own national currencies – something the West sees as a ploy by Moscow to circumvent the sanctions imposed on it over the past month.
Australia is one of many countries that has taken punitive actions against Russia in response to its war on Ukraine. Canberra also recently agreed to furnish armored vehicles, and other equipment, for Kiev.
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