Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said it might not be possible to reach a free trade deal with India, despite he and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's attempts to revive talks.
Mr Turnbull, who arrives back in Australia this morning from India, had been talking up the significance of a joint prime ministerial commitment to re-assess the deal as one of the key outcomes from his visit.
But, before leaving, he told the ABC a deal might not eventuate. "It may be that the conclusion will be reached that the parties are too far apart to enable a deal to be reached at this time," Mr Turnbull told AM.
"The fact is that the Indian offers have not been adequate to date." Mr Turnbull said the deal's future prospects would depend on whether each side was prepared to give ground on critical issues like tariff reduction and worker access.
"It has got to be a deal worth doing," said Mr Turnbull, cautioning that he and Mr Modi's desire to resuscitate the stalled process may not be able to overcome opposition to lowering protection.
"The traditions of protectionism in India run very deep.
"Now Mr Modi is changing that, but obviously these changes tend to have a period of evolution."
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Meanwhile, Australia has resisted India's push for it to relax some immigration restrictions — including on 457 visas — which would allow greater numbers of Indians to work in Australia.
Mr Turnbull refused to be drawn on what had prompted his predecessor Tony Abbott to say in late 2014 a deal could be completed by the end of 2015. "You'd have to ask him that," said Mr Turnbull, who added that he did not want get into a "blame game".
Talks have been at a virtual standstill since Mr Abbott's deadline passed.
Source: ABC News Author: James Bennett
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