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AIBC National Annual Australia India Address August 2021

The Australia India Business Council Ltd (AIBC), hosted its 2021 Annual Australia India Address, on 17 August 2021. Themed, “Australia and India – Driving a Strategic Partnership Today and Tomorrow,” the well-attended live, virtual event, was held to celebrate the twin milestones of India’s Independence Day on 15 August, and 35 years of AIBC promoting the bilateral trade relations between Australia and India.
Jim Varghese AM, National Chair of Australia India Business Council, and Event Moderator said that with the launch of the Indian Economic Strategy to 2035, Australia’s relationship with India is set to grow exponentially.
“The comprehensive strategic partnership signed by Prime Minister, Scott Morrison and Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has far-reaching implications for this relationship. With the renewed commitment of both governments to work more closely will track up the bilateral relationship to its next level.”
“The AIBC is committed to supporting the government and industry stakeholders to make this happen. In the past AIBC has been an active contributor to CCA, the FDA discussions, we are committed to facilitating an early free trade agreement or a CCA between the two countries.”
Sheba Nandkeolyar, Immediate past AIBC National Chair, formally introduced Keynote Speaker, the Hon Tony Abbott AC and acknowledged his long commitment to the Australia India bilateral relationship.
“As AIBC NSW President then, I had the opportunity to invite him, as the Keynote Speaker for our AIBC Annual Address. He was the Leader of the Opposition. He said – If I was to become the Prime Minister of Australia, India would be my priority.”
“That commitment has increased by the years. And I’m so very pleased to be able to introduce and welcome him as the keynote speaker for our event today, as especially he just returned from India as a special Trade Envoy, where he represented Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison, for high level talks about how to take our bilateral business and trade relationship to its next level.”
Former Australian Prime Minister the Hon Tony Abbott AC, in his Keynote Address, paid tribute to the government and people of India, for an extraordinary seven and a half decades since Independence, as the country’s democracy grew stronger and more vigorous to become the world’s emerging democratic superpower. He acknowledged the 700,000+ Australians of Indian background who are making wonderful contributions as great ambassadors for Australia to India, and vice versa.
He said his recent visit to India was aimed at progressing Australia’s significant bilateral economic and trade relationship with India, under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, where he had positive and productive meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Trade Minister Piyush Goyal and other senior ministers, advisors and business leaders.
“And there is a clear commitment by both India and Australia, on bringing this trade negotiation mediation to at least an interim conclusion as quickly as possible.”
 “There is so much more to be done to develop the comprehensive strategic partnership that now exists in name between our two countries. In the economic sphere. Obviously, we want deeper partnerships in education. We want deeper partnerships in technology. And we certainly want partnerships in the strategic minerals and rare earths that India is so determined to have, as part of its own Make in India campaign.”
“Most of India’s exports to Australia come in, without tariffs or quotas, and those that do attract a quota. It’s a comparatively small 5%. Most of Australia’s exports to India, on the other hand, are subject to tariffs and quotas. Our wide exports face an extraordinary 150% tariff.”
“What we should be hoping for, before the end of the year, at the very least, is an early harvest agreement on the principal goods that pass between our two countries, there are 100 tariff lines that constitute about 98% by value of our two-way trade.”
HE Manpreet Vohra, High Commissioner of India to Australia, acknowledged the re-engagements of CECA and FTA highlighted Indian and Australia’s shared challenges, opportunities and objectives, and that it was time to take the trade and economic relations to a much higher trajectory.
He said, “India is emerging as an economic powerhouse, fuelling growth globally. We are already the fifth largest economy in the world, the third largest in terms of purchasing power parity. Recently our Prime Minister announced a $1.3 trillion economic stimulus into our infrastructure construction.”
“All this I think, I agree it should be very exciting news for Australian business. They must appreciate that India today is actually an easy and welcoming place for business, and one of the most attractive destinations for foreign direct investment.”
 “With an open and globalised market of 1.3 billion people” India offered Australian businesses excellent opportunities for investments, export and manufacturing.
The Hon Julian Leeser MP, “It was quite extraordinary in the context of the pandemic that one of the great rays of hope and sunshine, the comprehensive strategic partnership was born last year, when it was signed by Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Morrison.
“This is, in many respects, the baseline architecture now for our relationship, and for the many areas in which we’re working together. Together, we’re working to shape the future of technology.”
“Australia is a critical minerals superpower. And we have the opportunity through things like lithium or through the other critical minerals to work with India.”
“While strategic issues are leading the relationship, it’s the economic reforms that India has been going through in the last few years are really quite staggering and provide extraordinary opportunities for Australia.”
 Anil Wadhwa, former Indian Ambassador, “Australia will need to look at alternate markets, India offers a very good opportunity. An interim agreement on trade in goods covering some of the bilateral trade tariffs will benefit both sides, while continuing to work towards the comprehensive agreement.”
“If India is to be kept engaged in these negotiations as we go forward, and the option of phasing out, tariff reductions will need to be worked out as well. Reduced tariffs on rare earths and minerals, which are much needed for India’s next generation production and programmes.”
“Australia could also be accommodative in selected services areas, like financial and cyber security technologies, cloud computing, labour intensive services for its remote areas, or a limited FDA would cover critical minerals and technologies, pharmaceuticals and chemicals.”
Harsh Shah, India Services Group Leader, Deloitte, “With the prominence of the growing middle class with rising incomes and the global reorientation, it is very easy to see why consumption is going to dominate trade in India, it is no longer a viable excuse for Australian businesses to put India in the too hard basket.
“We have to move quickly. And we have to be bolder than before. At Deloitte, we continue to work with our colleagues in India to solve some of our Australian and Indian client’s most complex business issues such as reduction in carbon emissions, securing rare earth and mineral resources for electric motor vehicles and reimagining the global supply chain and transitioning manufacturing facilities into India from other parts of the world.”
“But all of this is just the tip of the iceberg and the opportunity here is much bigger. The first is in the area of defence, where I think there is large scope of cooperation between the two governments as well as the private sector.”
“When we think about the skies, we think about launching satellites together, sharing of data. All of these present tremendous opportunities for both the countries. It is not going to be easy, but with the focus on the Five Eyes and the QUAD relationship, India and Australia have a real opportunity to re-establish the global defence and strategic ties.”
The Hon Jodi McKay MP, “There is enormous opportunity for us as a country, and particularly a state here in New South Wales, the global situation has changed. But it also is very dependent, in recognising the importance of the Diaspora in this bilateral relationship. And I can tell you as someone who represents a significant Indian Australian community, the question for all of us, and I think why the AIBC is so critical in this discussion, is how do we motivate the Diaspora?”
“And how do we take advantage when those borders open? One issue for me, and it’s a difficult issue, but I believe it’s an issue that governments need to take on is how we bring out international students back.”
Sanushka Seomangal, AIBC National Vice Chair delivered the Official Vote of Thanks.
 You can watch the full replay of the Australia India Address 2021 here: