Equal footing means to be equals in stature, prestige, relationship and - possibly - background, education, qualifications.
The parties were consulting/discussing/interviewing each other on an equal-to-equal basis.
In diplomatic situations, for example, two countries may want to talk to each other. The first thing they have to decide (as countries cannot actually speak) is who each country will send as a delegate to the table. They have to send those of equal footing. If one sent an ambassador and the other a president, they would not be of equal footing.
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