Australian India Chamber of Commerce

  • Speech
12 August 2021

Can I start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and pay my respect to their elders, past, present and emerging.

Can I acknowledge the High Commissioner who's with us tonight. High Commissioner thanks for your wonderful words. Thank you for the passion with which you've thrown yourself into your job.

You've hit the ground running, you're making a real impact, you've met with me and my ministerial colleagues and you're getting to know our country very well and you're also doing a great job in ensuring that the Australia India relationship across the board is one which continues to grow and thank you for that.

I'm sorry that we didn't get to break bread tonight. I was very much looking forward to a very nice Indian meal but I'm sure we'll have time to do that on many other occasions.

But thank you for your words and the way that you summed up the potential and the opportunities that are there in India at the moment and the growth story which India is embarking upon, and which is going to continue into the future.

And India is – you're right to say – is on the way to becoming an economic powerhouse and my hope is that the Australia India Economic Partnership will be very important in fuelling that economic powerhouse status that India is reaching.

So, thank you very much for your contribution tonight.

Can I say to Tony and Deepak Rajh, thank you for what you're doing, in setting up this Chapter.

I think it's incredibly important for the relationship and from what you were saying Tony, we're only going to see this to continue to grow around the nation which is even more positive because I think what it starts to show is how important the relationship is becoming here in Australia. It's not just shown by the traditional large cities but we're starting to see it spread out, right across the nation.

I think that shows the depth, the true depth, of the economic relationship. And the interest in both countries in enhancing and improving further that economic relationship.

So, to the both of you, congratulations for what you're doing, and I look forward to staying in touch.

On the 14th of August 1947 Prime Minister Nehru delivered what is considered by many to be the most famous Indian speech ever made, when he announced the birth of an independent, democratic India.

“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom,” he told us. “We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.”

As we enter the 75th year of India's independence, we can celebrate the incredible progress of the Indian nation and its “life and freedom”.

Incredibly important values, not only for India but to Australia as well.

India has no better friend than Australia and our bilateral relationship has never been stronger — and that is especially true when it comes to the Australia-India trade and business relationship.

Last year, India was Australia's seventh largest trading partner and sixth largest export market.

Two-way goods and services trade with India reached $24.4 billion. Australia's stock investment in India was $15.4 billion and the stock of two-way foreign direct investment was valued at $1.4 billion.

Both countries are working hard to further grow opportunities to create the jobs and businesses that will underpin our shared economic prosperity.

Prime Minister Morrison and Prime Minister Modi elevated our relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership or CSP at their Virtual Leaders' Summit on 4 June 2020.

The CSP covers a range of practical initiatives to boost trade and investment which supports and builds on ambitions outlined in Australia's India Economic Strategy to 2035.

The Economic Partnership has been geared to driving a long-term upward trajectory in our economic relationship.

From 2020-21, the Morrison Government has committed an additional $62.2 million over four years for new initiatives to implement the CSP, covering:

  • $19.5 million to support the science, technology and innovation partnership with India;
  • $15.7 million to strengthen Australia's security and maritime partnership with India in the Indo-Pacific;
  • $14.2 million to enhance the business and education relationship with India and strengthen linkages with Indian diaspora in Australia; and
  • $12.7 million to establish the Australia-India cyber and critical technology partnership.

As part of the CSP Prime Ministers Morrison and Modi decided to re-engage on a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) or another way of putting it, a free trade agreement, where a mutually agreed way forward can be found. Re-engaging on a CECA is in both countries' national interest.

In July, I provided a proposal to Minister Goyal, India's trade minister, on strengthening the economic relationship. And I asked former Prime Minister the Hon Tony Abbott AC to travel to India earlier this month to reinforce and follow up on this proposal.

Mr Abbott met with Prime Minister Modi, Indian Trade Minister Piyush Goyal and other Indian ministers and business leaders to energise and expand our bilateral trade and investment relationship with India, including discussion on the need to finalise a CECA.

During his visit, Mr Abbott received confirmation that India wants to progress CECA negotiations this year. This is something Australia wants as well.

Chief negotiators spoke this week, and will meet again next week to discuss the framework for negotiations going forward. And I will discuss the framework with Minister Goyal following this.

While it is very welcome that both countries want to progress the CECA this year, it will require a serious commitment from both sides to get this done in this timeframe. While time cannot dictate the substance of the agreement, we are both looking at putting in additional negotiating resources for this purpose.

We hope that we will be able to build on this momentum to reach an agreement that reflects the strength of the economic relationship in the near future.

And I look forward to continuing to update you all on the progress that we make.

Just this week, we also published a report exploring ways to unlock the potential of the Australia-India Critical Minerals Partnership.

Critical Minerals are a huge opportunity and demonstrate the complementarity of the two economies.

India has an ambitious industrial development agenda that will require a stable and secure supply of critical minerals and related technologies and Australia has among the world's largest recoverable reserves of many critical minerals and is recognised as a leader in sustainable, ethical mining practices.

Critical minerals, infrastructure, energy, technology, agriculture, education, space – there is enormous upside between Australia and India in terms of the many ways in which we will be able to work together through the next decade.

That is why, tonight, I can announce that we will be updating the India Economic Strategy to make it even more relevant.

Over the coming months, the update will set out where the government needs to focus immediate attention to deliver the objectives of the IES and further our ties under our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

We remain committed to the IES and Peter Varghese's ambition.

And we will work closely with the Indian Government, key industry bodies, business community and the diaspora to ensure everyone is listened to.

One of the greatest strengths of the India-Australia relationship is our people to people ties.

Indian immigrants over many generations have made outstanding contributions to our nation.

Indian students have been welcome additions to our universities and communities when they have travelled here to study.

Indian food, music, movies and culture have all been embraced by Australians.

And I know every cricket fan in both countries will be keenly anticipating the next Border-Gavaskar series.

Although the way our twenty-twenty team played against Bangladesh, we need some serious improvement before that series.

So tonight, we raise a glass and toast India's independence and celebrate the important, and growing, role that India plays in the Indo-Pacific and on the global stage.

Australia looks forward to being there to celebrate all of India's important milestones.

Thank you very much for having me here tonight – I wish we were doing it in person, but this is a substitute that we're all getting very, very used to and I very much look forward to a good meal and a good chat with friends when we can meet in person.

Thank you and namaste.

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