Indo-Oz trade, commerce and industry gearing to move forward
Riding on the success of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s recent visit to India and the white paper prepared by the Australia India Business Council (AIBC), Austrade is gearing up on improving Australia-India relations, with India rising to be the country’s major trading partner. Trade and investment between the two nations grew from $3.3 billion in 2000 to over $15 billion in 2013, according to the Department Foreign Affairs and Trade here.
Austrade’s Australia’s International Business Survey (AIBS) 2014, identifies India as a top ten trading partner, gradually rising to third position along with China and the United States, in key sectors such as mining, resources, agriculture, tourism, IT, education, filming, television programs, vocational training and professional services.
Federal Trade Minister Andrew Robb MP says, “The $15-billion two way trade between Australian and India pales against our other trading partners. That needs to change. Australia has much to offer and it would seem we have only just begun to appreciate the scale and size of the opportunity India presents. Likewise, Indian business has yet to truly understand the potential of Australia as a provider of food, energy and services.The key to unlocking the potential of our commercial relationship will be to focus on our strengths.” Nicola Watkinson, Senior Trade Commissioner of Austrade for South Asia is responsible for developing trade, investment and education links between Australia and South Asia, and oversees 16 offices across India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. “Now is the time for Australia to capitalise on this renewed business confidence and ride the wave of growth in India,” she says.
There are synergies between Australia’s search for new opportunities in trade and investment and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Made in India’ vision. Australia has much to offer in terms of key inputs like iron ore for steel, infrastructure development such as heavy rail, supply chain management, finance and technology.
Austrade can also be a useful partner in helping India develop the skills it needs through vocational education programs that improve productivity and boost employment. Australia can also be a reliable source of energy and food. Taken together, these things represent substantial opportunities to enhance what is already a strong trade and investment relationship.
During PM Abbott’s visit, the importance of progressing the Closer Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) was highlighted and Minister Robb was asked to work closely with Commerce Minister Sitharaman to finalise the agreement by the end of 2016. The Minister announced his intention to build on strong links formed and return with another delegation from January 10-16, 2015 for a week-long business program centered around 4 cities with a focus across the priority sectors of energy and resources, infrastructure, agritech, and education & innovation.
Tapping the Indian market
The focus of Austrade in India has been on honing into these priority sectors and identifying specific niches where there is a well-defined need and willingness to pay for Australian expertise. On the Australian side, areas in which Australia is seen to have genuine world-class capability and an interest in entering the market, have been identified. Austrade then overlaid this with an assessment of which areas have lower barriers to entry, and where the competition from other countries is less. Nine areas have been identified where Australia believes it can be successful.
Some areas such as premium food and wine offer immediate opportunities for Australian business, and Austrade is running promotions of Australian produce such as lamb and wine with the top hotels in partnership with Meat & Livestock Australia, and state government colleagues. Austrade is also cooperating with Tourism Australia on the Restaurant Australia campaign, showing Indians how they can source Australian products they fancy locally, after returning from a holiday here. The love of food is something that both Indians and Australians share.
Austrade is also look for innovative ways to help businesses function in areas of India that are fledgling markets. The organisation’s India team worked with Indian authorities to stem the economic and social impact of traffic accidents. There are some 500,000 road traffic injuries and 150,000 lives lost in India each year. The human tragedy is incalculable, but the economic cost is about $50 billion annually, or over 3 percent of India’s GDP.
Austrade found a solution – an innovative way of helping to prevent this level of traffic accidents by supporting the enhancement of policy & regulatory environments, training police, running a showcase in schools and malls to teach road safety, undertaking research into how to more effectively treat road accident victims before they arrive at hospital to increase their chances of survival, up-skilling emergency care nurses and introducing technologies for better controlling traffic on the roads. This work presents a commercial advantage for the companies delivering these solutions, but it is also about Australia helping a friend and neighbour find a solution to what is a national problem.
Education & skills development
Another key area of focus is education, as India is now the second largest source of overseas students in Australia. During the visit, the Prime Minister launched the New Colombo Plan for India starting in 2015, which will allow sharing of even greater knowledge and building a better understanding of each other’s cultures. Just as the original Colombo Plan in the 1950s and 1960s brought students to Australia, the new plan will send Australians students into the region, offering them an opportunity to live, study, work and learn in India and other countries. In skills development, Australian institutions are working together with their Indian counterparts to develop sustainable, commercial models of in-market delivery of training to help India capture the benefits of its demographic dividend by creating skilled, job-ready young people set to take up new employment opportunities being created across manufacturing, construction, hospitality and services.
Other areas in which Austrade will focus include aged care, sport development and cultural precincts, heavy haul rail, industrial water treatment and energy efficiency, dairy management, grain storage and sustainable fisheries and innovation.
There are exciting times ahead for Austrade, and the promise of an enhanced economic and trade relationship between these two great nations.