Kolkata, Sep 20 : With India and Australia both slated to hold general elections next year, the process of signing a bilateral free-trade agreement could see a slowdown, a senior Australian envoy said here on Thursday.
However, Australian Deputy High Commissioner Rod Hilton declared that his country would continue to give priority to concluding the FTA with India.
"Trade agreements are complicated.
Both India and Australia have elections next year so there might be a slowdown in the process (of signing FTA)," Hilton said at an interactive session organised by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
In India, the Lok Sabha polls slated to be held in the first half of next year.
Australia is also scheduled to hold its next federal election in 2019.
Hilton said active negotiations to improve trade ties between New Delhi and Canberra would continue despite the probable slowdown in inking the FTA.
He also underscored that FTA was not the sole route to intensify trade relationships, and a lot of other avenues were open between the two countries to "deepen and diversify" bilateral relationships through negotiations.
Negotiation for the pact, christened Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) between India and Australia, was started in 2011.
India's exports to Australia reached (Dollar) 4 billion in 2017-18, while the import figure was close to (Dollar) 14 billion.
Hilton said efforts were on diversity the product basket with regards to Australia's exports to India which was too much dependent on coal and natural gas.
Turning to West Bengal, the diplomat said the Australian government has identified it as one of the top ten states of particular interest to Canberra.
There was much room to enhance trade between Bengal and Australia, with the former now receiving only one per cent of the around USD 10.3 billion pumped into India by the Oceanian nation.