Trade deal with India on track: minister

Trade Minister Andrew Robb says Australia is on track to secure a free trade deal with India. (AAP)

Trade Minister Andrew Robb Australian investors and service exporters could start seeing benefits from a free trade deal with India from next year.

Australia is on track to secure a free trade deal with India by the end of 2015, Trade Minister Andrew Robb says.

Mr Robb is on his way back to Australia after a five-day mission to India, in which he spoke to key government members and investors.

It was the minister's fifth visit to India in the past 12 months to advance talks on the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).

Mr Robb said Australian businesses could start seeing the benefits of the agreement in late 2016.

"There's still a lot of work to be done," he told AAP from Chennai on Thursday.

"But we've got a timetable which, all things being equal, can lead us to a conclusion by the end of the year."

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi was unavailable because of talks with a visiting African delegation, Mr Robb had five ministerial meetings, including with the finance and commerce ministers involved in the agreement negotiations.

"It's building up a sense of momentum," he said.

India is Australia's 12th largest trading partner - two-way trade is worth about $15 billion and it is the nation's seventh largest export market.

Mr Robb said CECA would focus more on investment and services - such as engineering, legal and finance - rather than goods.

"It has a reasonable goods package, but they are still very much a developing country," he said.

"The timelines on opening up goods, especially agriculture, will be quite protracted."

However, he hoped Australian service providers would eventually find it just as easy to set up in Delhi as they would in Sydney or Melbourne.

A big opportunity exists in the Indian government's plan to rejuvenate the network of 450 railway stations, which handle 27 million people a day, through commercial developments such as shopping precincts.

Mr Robb told Indian officials Australia would be on track to have a nuclear cooperation agreement in place by the end of the year, opening the way for the first exports of uranium to fuel new power plants.

A recent parliamentary inquiry found exports to India could double Australia's uranium mining workforce, focused on South Australia and Western Australia, and increase export revenue by an estimated $1.75 billion.

Mr Robb also led a bipartisan delegation to the inaugural Australia India Leadership Dialogue in New Delhi.

In Chennai, Mr Robb promoted Australia's research, technology and innovative industries.

Source: AAP

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