Australia India Business Exchange 2020, New Delhi

  • Speech, check against delivery
Topics: Tourism Australia, Australia and Indian business + economy.
New Delhi, India
24 February 2020

Simon Birmingham: Thanks very much, Stephanie, and good morning. Namaste.

Can I acknowledge my good friend, the New South Wales Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres, and thank you Stuart for being here representing the New South Wales Government across the tourism, trade, and investment portfolios. Acknowledging his absence, Martin Pakula, the Victorian minister who is joining us as well. To representatives, trade representatives of other states and territories who are here. Too, indeed, the Acting High Commissioner Rod Hilton. Thank you very much Rod for your welcome.

While speaking of people in their absence, can I acknowledge and publicly thank Harinder Sidhu, the outgoing High Commissioner, who recently departed India, for her exemplary work in building and strengthening the Australia-India relationship over recent years. It has certainly gone to strength to strength under Harinder’s watch and that creates a high benchmark for you, Barry O’Farrell, as we welcome you, the incoming High Commissioner. Barry is here, designate, for those who were wondering, just yet to officially present his credentials, which is why he's not quite in the job, but he's certainly on the job in that regard. And it's wonderful to have you with us, Barry, and I look forward to the work that you undertake.

To my various agency heads, who are representative here, so in addition to the DFAT team represented of course by the High Commissioner and those here from Canberra. And can I acknowledge that we have the chief executives of the Australian Trade and Investment Commission – Austrade – of Export Finance Australia, and of course, not only the managing director, but the entire Board of Tourism Australia who are here. Thank you. You represent of course the fact that right across the industry sectors represented here, we have such standout high level representation. And I want to welcome you all to the Australia India Business Exchange 2020. Especially, more than 120 representatives from business, key organisations, from education to mining, premium foods, aviation, infrastructure and more. No doubt the coronavirus outbreak made complicated travel plans for some of you. And we acknowledge that it has kept some away. Your presence here shows just how serious you are about doing business with India.

Since 2000, the size of India's economy has grown sevenfold. Australia's economy over the same period has grown threefold. We welcome this growth. We welcome the growth which is creating more opportunities, more opportunities for prosperity in particular amidst India's massive population. Australia offers, as you all know, cutting edge technological solutions, much needed energy and resources, as well as the knowhow, education and skills to keep India's growing industries growing. It's through that growth that India will continue to create more, more highly paid opportunities that will continue to lift living standards and opportunities. And Australia can play a role in helping to fuel that growth. We are ready and we are confident with the skills mix here. We can, and we will continue to do so.

We also provide, of course, as that growth occurs, premium produce and services to support India's growing population of consumers. Both of our governments have demonstrated a significant commitment to deepening our bilateral relationship in all of its spheres, including our trade and investment ties. Mutual understanding is the key to any great relationship, and that's why AIBX has been designed to foster. A true exchange between our nations of ideas, knowledge, and of opportunities. We are here to learn from each other. I'm looking forward to an action-packed visit, exploring opportunities across the different streams of education, agribusiness, resources, tourism, and infrastructure, and to engaging with some of India's most influential government and private sector leaders. It's fitting that we're kicking off here in New Delhi, the world's second largest urban area after Tokyo. Today, the metropolitan area of New Delhi has a population greater than the entirety of Australia. It contributes 8 per cent to India's GDP, and attracts one fifth of India's foreign direct investment. And it is one of the five Indian cities that by 2035 is forecast to have an economy comparable in size to middle income countries today; one city. The scale of opportunity for Australian exporters and investors in New Delhi alone is considerable, but it is matched also only by the scale of the challenge for India to continue to truly fulfil its growth potential. So let's look at the bigger picture. India offers more growth opportunities for Australian businesses over the next 20 years than any other single market in the world. But this statement holds true for other countries too. We cannot be complacent and must be a valued partner to India if those opportunities are to be realised. According to some forecasts, in 15 years India may overtake Japan as the world's third largest economy, and China as the world's most populated nation.

This will drive demand for the types of products and services represented in this room today: resources, education, premium, food, wine, infrastructure. The Australian Government recognised the importance and potential of the bilateral relationship in 2018 with our response to the India Economic Strategy. We’ve set some important goals, not least of which is to lift India to be the third- or the top three, one of our top three export markets by 2035, and to make India the third largest destination in Asia for Australian outward investment. These are critical aspects to the true nature of the partnership. Investment that continues to fuel growth. Investment not only in financial terms, but of course in areas of skills and resources to help sustain the growth of Indian industry and business. We're honoured that the Indian Government has also seen great value in our relationship and is putting the finishing touches on an Australia economic strategy. Of course, we're not starting from scratch. For more than two centuries, Australia and India have complemented each other, including in trade. From the time the colony of New South Wales. This is done for you, Barry, and you, Stuart. Although, Barry, now you have to be committal about a whole country, not just New South Wales.

From the time the colony of New South Wales was established back in the 18th century, the East India Company had exclusive rights to control all trade with Australia. It would be of little surprise to those who know about Australian history, and particularly that of New South Wales, that this rule was flouted by enterprising New South Welshman of the time, including a junior officer, Lieutenant John MacArthur, who brought 30 Bengal sheep from an illegal shipment out of Calcutta in 1793. Australian coal was then exported through the East India Company from the late 18th century, and of course today remains our leading export to India.

The inputs that India requires today to help with its rapid economic transformation are now much more varied than livestock and mineral resources. As 1.3 billion Indians expand their opportunities and their horizons, India's energy consumption is set to increase 4.2 per cent a year through to 2025, making it Asia's largest energy market within the next few years.

India has set a strong course to develop its own mineral resources to help meet this demand, and its mining sector is adapting to stricter safety, environmental, and water management regulations. These types of standards present opportunities for Australian industries. Our mining, engineering, technology service supplies, our met suppliers are well positioned to partner with India to provide innovative and cost-effective mining solutions. It's about transferring our skills, expertise and knowledge to help India grow its industries and opportunities. Likewise, our expertise in managing water resources will be invaluable to India as it strives for sustainable economic development. Melbourne's Rubicon water recently partnered with a Hyderabad to bring Australian innovation to Indian farmers and help them reduce their water use while enhancing their farm productivity. Improving productivity, improving livelihoods, improving environmental outcomes and water use and sustainability. These are win-win outcomes in terms of Australian knowledge transfer driving trade and prosperity for both countries and economies.

Elsewhere, Australian companies are partnering with India on its infrastructure requirements to develop smart, sustainable, efficient cities. Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets has committed Australian $2 billion to 700 kilometres of India's highways over the next 30 years; the biggest foreign investor in Indian infrastructure. Australian Super has announced a US $1 billion investment into India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund. Rapid urbanisation of the world's largest rural population is also driving strong growth in India's fooding markets, which tripled in the decade to 2018 to some $5.3 billion. Among the Australian brands making names for themselves in India are beauty brand Sand and Sky, and health manufacturer Sodexo Foods, who are part of our business mission this week.

We’ll be launching some exciting campaigns that will put the spotlight on these premium Australian brands. We know, well and truly, the complementarity of those safe, high quality premium brands and products as they make their way to India with the safe, high quality, wonderful experience provided by Australia, be it across our education sector, our tourism sector, or elsewhere.

We are here at a fortuitous moment, as India’s growing bricks and mortar and e-commerce retail opportunities are making it simpler than ever to reach consumers in every corner of this vast country. Away from the bustle of commerce though, India and Australia share strong people-to-people ties. The Indian diaspora in Australia is our third largest and our fastest growing. Hinduism is Australia’s fastest growing religion. Punjabi, our fastest growing language. At the 2016 census, one in every 50 people present in Australia was born in India. Investment and trade are firmly two-way propositions too. If you’ve caught a train in Sydney, the chances are they were manufactured by Alstom at its Andhra Pradesh facility. This is Australia’s biggest public transport project and our first fully automated network. If you downloaded a rideshare app, the chances are you may have used Ola, a Bengaluru-based company that has rapidly expanded across Australia.

Many Indians are also choosing to study or holiday in Australia. India rates second as a source of foreign students in Australia, and seventh as a source of international visitors. And, pleasingly, India ranks as one of the most popular destinations for Australia’s new Colombo Scholarship recipients, to come and study here, again recognising the two-way value of the relationship.

As with every aspect of our relationship with India, it is a growth story. India’s middle class is growing rapidly, driving demand for high quality education, luxury travel, premium products. To truly service this market, Australia must strengthen our education brand, here partner with Indian education providers, and work with India as it builds up its own quality institutions.

Already, we are seeing incredible stories emerge from these kinds of partnerships. Working together, the University of Wollongong and Vizag are producing 3D bio-printed ears in India’s first integrated medical devices manufacturing site. Macquarie University is working with the Reserve Bank of India, Center for Advanced Financial Research and Learning, to train top executives in India’s financial services firms. And the University of New South Wales is working with Manipal Academy of Higher Education to boost academic exchange and research collaborations.

We can see the opportunities are broad and wide. And of course, Stephanie touched on the way in which the integrate into value chains; as we see the news today around President Trump’s visit and the symbolism there of him opening a stadium designed architecturally by Australia’s current exporter of the year in Populous. And I can assure you that between the Prime Minister and I, we will make sure that we tweet at the President to make sure he’s well aware of that fact.

This is a wonderful opportunity, these couple of days, for you as Australian businesses to collaborate together, but more importantly, with your Indian partners, present and emerging. We have committed at a government level to strengthen the ties as enthusiastically and as deeply as we possibly can. But ultimately, it will be you, the business people, the business leaders, the leaders of research, education, tourism, to seize the opportunities that are on offer. And you will do so in ways I am sure will uphold Australian values, providing value, providing assistance, and ensuring that two-way bonds that have created a strong relationship continue to be at the core of this relationship in providing the type of value that everybody wants to see, not only for Australia, but also for India, as any true partnership would have it.

Thanks so much for taking the time to be with me today, with us today. And I really look forward to working with you all as we span across this great country in six different cities over the coming days, and to make sure that we have the maximum impact possible to build and enhance the Australia-India relationship.

Thank you very much.

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