Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a trade agreement with India due to be signed on Saturday represented “one of the biggest economic doors there is to open in the world today”.
Morrison is expected to call a general election within days, and has been eager to secure the trade deal before campaigning begins, having been in negotiations with India for a decade.
The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement would be signed in a virtual ceremony by Trade Minister Dan Tehan and India's Minister of Commerce & Industry, Piyush Goyal, and both countries would continue to work towards a full free trade deal, the federal government said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters in Tasmania, Morrison said he and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi would witness the virtual ceremony.
“These are never all or nothing deals as far as we're concerned, we see all of these as the next step and the next step and the next step,” he said, expressing both countries intention to build closer trade ties.
Morrison’s government is seeking to diversify export markets and reduce Australia's dependence on its biggest trading partner China, after diplomatic spats led to Beijing sanctioning certain Australian products.
The deal with India removes tariffs on more than 85% of Australian goods exports to India, worth A$12.6 billion, rising to almost 91% over 10 years.
Tariffs will be scrapped on sheep meat, wool, copper, coal, alumina, fresh Australian rock lobster, and some critical minerals and non-ferrous metals to India.
It will see 96% of Indian goods imports enter Australia duty-free.
Trade Minister Tehan described the deal as a "significant win" for Australian exporters, and said it would bring the economies of Australia and India closer together.
"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 ... this is an historic outcome," he told ABC television.
(Reporting by Samuel McKeith; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)