Two cricket passionate loving nations India and Australia came together to sign a historic and much awaited trade agreement named ECTA earlier this month.
In the making for over a decade now it gathered steam only last year wherein heads of both the countries decided to get this accomplished at the earliest.
The Signing of the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) between India and Australia is the first trade agreement of India with a developed country after more than a decade.
Keeping the significance of this trade agreement in mind and the camaraderie that has developed between the two countries Vizag Industrial Scan in an exclusive interview spoke to Australian High Commissioner to India, Mr. Barry O Farrell on the proximity and shared values that both the countries hold and also on enhancing trade between the two nations.
‘Going from the 3 Cs i.e. cricket, curry and commonwealth to the 4 Ds i.e. Democracy, Defence, Dosti and Diaspora Australia India relations have bolstered over the past few years’ stated the Australian High Commissioner.
Edited excerpts of the interview below.
There has been great bonhomie that has developed between the two nations (government to government) over the past few years. What according to you has driven this relationship to this level of proximity?
Strategically we have seen significant changes over the past few years that have brought us together. Australia and India have complimentary economies. We have inputs that India can use to grow its industry and Australia has opportunities to purchase from India. So I would say we are not competitive but complimentary economies.
Also Indians are aspirational people. They are very good at equipping themselves with the skills needed to be successful and are therefore hard working people. As other countries Australia is as a good place for them to do the same here.
In addition the increasing size of Indian diaspora has to my mind certainly brought both the countries closer to each other over the past 20 years. As per the latest census figures slated to come out this year there are more than 800,000 people of Indian origin in Australia i.e. one in 35 Australians is of Indian origin. Either they were born in India or their parent/grandparent was born in India.
India and Australia recently signed the ECTA. How do you foresee this impacting bilateral trade between the two countries?
I think the opportunities this presents in both countries are limitless. As per certain studies our bilateral trade could well touch USD 100 billion by 2035 from the current 27 USD billion. We thus are bullish about further enhancing our trade with India across various sectors going forward.
What are some of the key sectors Australia is looking to actively engage with India in?
Some of the key sectors to my mind are for sure Education, Renewable energy, Mining, Infrastructure investments and Technology.
Is supply of Defence equipment a key area?
As we are not a big defence manufacturer/supplier I don’t think it will be a key area of supply from the Australian side. However Defence will remain extremely important as we will keep having joint exercises with India.
Also as complimentary economies, if we are better able to provide goods to each other this will only help the economic development of both the countries. This will also help both the countries to cooperate together on what Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi has called as the sacred mission i.e. to live in a safe, secure and open Indo-Pacific region post Covid.
Also trusted partners are now a thing again. Once upon a time we thought its just about the price now its about trust. It’s your trusted partners who in difficult times will continue to supply you.
What are some of the most common issues Australian Businessmen/companies would like India to act upon?
Well some of the key pain areas in India are more or less the same that we have in Australia. For instance both countries have central and state governments this often translates into double regulations. This then adds more time to execute from a company’s stand point.
One of the key things whenever entering a new market is to spend time thinking and learning about that new market before you start spending a dollar/rupee there. Therefore business literacy holds key.
It is for this reason that our Prime Minister Mr. Scott Morrison in discussion with Prime Minister Mr. Modi announced a new centre of Australia India relations which amongst other things will seek to educate businesses in Australia on how best to do business in India.
How important is the state of Andhra Pradesh to Australia?
In my meeting last year with the CM of Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy he was very interested in getting inbound investments from Australia to Andhra Pradesh. We have a number of companies who invest in infrastructure in India and they are opportunities that could be explored in this space in AP too.
What would you highlight as some of the opportunities that Indian Businessmen/Investors can look upon in Australia?
There is a plethora of opportunities for Indian Businesses to look upon in Australia. As we recently announced first and foremost there is going to be Indian investments in critical minerals and rare earth mines in Australia. These minerals are essential for the manufacturing of everything from computers, telephones to electrical vehicles or batteries used in them. Indian businesses can therefore invest in the raw material space there.
Secondly there are huge agriculture opportunities for large agricultural producers in India/Andhra Pradesh. You can invest in land in Australia. And if you are producing wheat or mangoes during the season here you can do the same there too as we have counter cyclical seasons. This way you will have supply round the year and not just in a specific season.