ABC Afternoon Agenda with Greg Jennett
Greg Jennett, Host: Trade Minister Don Farrell is leading a large group of Australian business and education leaders. They're about to converge with the Prime Minister. He joined us from Mumbai only moments ago.
Don Farrell, thanks for making some time on what I think is a very busy day from sun up to sun down. You're leading the Australian Business Delegation. I think you've already had what they call the CEO Forum this morning in Mumbai. Who did that bring together?
Minister for Trade, Don Farrell: That brought together 25 of Australia's largest business leaders and is I think, a reflection of the improved relations with India, and what we think we can do in the future to build an even stronger relationship between Australia and India.
Greg Jennett: Are there any tangible business deals that you reasonably expect will be clinched, signed or otherwise secured as part of the immediate couple of days ahead?
Minister for Trade: Look, we've only recently passed our Free Trade Agreement through the Australian Parliament, and similarly, the Indians have approved that agreement. Already that's showing very significant improvements in our trading relationship with India. In the month of January, which was the first month when two tariff reductions took place, over $2.5 billion worth of Australian produce came into India at a lower tariff. That obviously improves our competitiveness in the Indian market, but it's also good for jobs back in Australia.
Greg Jennett: A lot of the anticipation around this trip was in known sectors like university education. I'm wondering about traditional resource industries. You have Madeleine King, your colleague there. Is there an Indian appetite for Australian resources, including, let's be frank, fossil fuels, coal and gas?
Minister for Trade: Look, there's a combination here, Greg, of fossil fuels, but also renewable fuels. We're talking both about supplying our traditional fossil fuels, but India is also very committed to decarbonisation, as is the Anthony Albanese Government in Australia. I think we have great prospects of expanding our role in that decarbonisation process that's going on in India. They're very interested in our critical minerals, and they're also interested in the supply of hydrogen, which of course, will take the place of that gas as we transition to a decarbonised economy.
Greg Jennett: Does uranium ever come up? Obviously, India has uranium for civil purposes, but it seems to get it from other suppliers. Is that something being explored or expanded?
Minister for Trade: We haven't had any particular discussions about uranium, but I think the focus of this particular trip has been on those renewable sources, namely critical minerals and the hydrogen supply chain. That's going to be very important in that decarbonisation process that's taking place in India at the moment.
Greg Jennett: Yeah, so your job is very clear, as we've been discussing it, in India to put more momentum behind trade there, but inevitably it's going to lead on to the next job for you, which is China, an ongoing body of work. Are you any closer to securing, Don Farrell, your own in-country meeting in China with the Commerce Minister?
Minister for Trade: Discussions have been going very well with the Chinese Government and the Chinese Minister. As you know from previous conversations we've had, I've been invited to China, and I expect that to take place in the near future. Discussions at the official level have been going well, and I would expect in the near, near future that I'll be making that trip to China.
Greg Jennett: Alright, we'll try and decode what near, near future might mean as we get closer to that date. But I see in Chinese state-owned media, the Global Times fairly positive coverage of a rebound in two-way trade through the months of January and February. Do you take that as evidence of a supportive environment within China to bring these talks to fruition?
Minister for Trade: I do, Greg. In almost every aspect where we've had trade blockages or disputes, there appears to be progress being made. My job is to convert those discussions into practical outcomes for Australian businesses. We have to remember that something like $20 billion worth of trade impediments occurred during the last few years. We're not going to resolve every problem in every sector overnight, but the Albanese Government is committed to stabilising the relationship with China, getting those trade talks well and truly on track, and resolving those outstanding disputes.
Greg Jennett: Well, either way, between these two mammoth economies, China and India, where you are today, there's a lot that lies ahead, including on this very day. Keep one eye on the cricket results as you go Don Farrell might be the suggestion.
Minister for Trade: I'll certainly do that for you Greg.
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