Speech to Confederation of Indian Industries
16 November 2013
I am absolutely delighted to be in Mumbai, on the first full day of my first visit to India as Australia's Foreign Minister. Distinguished guests, thank you for taking the time to be here today. My presence here is a reflection of the emphasis that our government is placing on what we called “economic diplomacy”, of the value we place on our relations with India, and of our commitment to work with the type of talented and experienced people that are here in this room today, and to broaden and deepen the co-operation between Australia and India.
This morning, with High Commissioner Patrick Suckling and Consul General Mark Pierce, I formally opened our Consulate General in Mumbai and then witnessed the signing of an MOU between the Indian Ministry of Health and Australia's National Trauma Research Institute. My next act on leaving this lunch was to pay my respects to Mr Sachin Tendulkar by attending a short segment, of what I thought, was going to be a much longer game but there is no doubt about those West Indians. They were clearly unable to hold back the might of the Indian test team so I am afraid I will not have that opportunity but Mr Tendulkar holds an award in the Order of Australia which is the highest civilian award in our country. He is respected and admired not only as a great sportsman but also as an ambassador for India across the cricket loving world and beyond and I hope at some point I will have to opportunity to tell him how much I admire him!
With a number of opportunities in between to meet with Australians doing business in India and Indians doing business in Australia, my last act tomorrow, before leaving your vibrant, exciting, bustling city will be to inspect your new airport, a fitting emblem of the development and progress in a city that appears to be always open for business.
I thank the Confederation of Indian Industries, our partner in this event and I thank particularly Mr Jamshyd Godrej, thank you for your introduction, Past President CII, and I thank you for your words about the relationship between our two countries.
As the Abbott government is determined to establish and extend the international ties that are essential to advancing Australia's national interest in coming decades, India is an essential part of our foreign policy priorities. Our relationship needs constant attention and nurturing.
Two weeks ago I met with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid during the 9th Foreign Minister's Framework Dialogue in my home city of Perth.
And Prime Ministers Abbott and Singh held very productive talks during the annual Leaders' Meeting in Brunei earlier this month.
We are planning and hoping for a visit by Prime Minister Abbott to India in 2014 and we certainly hope your Prime Minister will be able to visit Australia before the G20 in Brisbane next year. It's been some time since we have had the honor and privilege of hosting an Indian Prime Minister and we are very keen to do so.
And now, within three months of taking office, I'm here in Mumbai, the financial, economic and commercial capital of India and then traveling to Delhi tomorrow.
Australia and India – partners for the 21st Century
Our government recognizes that India is vital to Australia's strategic and economic thinking. India is an economic, political and strategic powerhouse and a mega democracy with increasing global influence. It has the potential to be one of our most valuable and strategic partners yet Australia had seemed slow to fully come to terms with India's regional and global significance and why a deeper and stronger and more diversified relationship is in Australia's interest.
I can assure you, the new Australian government understands this fully.
For decades Australian foreign policy has focused on relations in the Asia Pacific, the east-Asia giants of Japan and South Korea and more recently China and Indonesia. Our closest ally, the United States has been a dominant economic and military force in the Asia Pacific and I believe will continue to be so. However Australia is also a nation of the Indian Ocean and I see and describe our region as the Indo Pacific which means our focus must also include India. Our common interests in the Indo - Pacific are growing and converging.
Our increasing collaboration was on display in Perth recently - when India handed over the reins of an association called the Indian Ocean Rim Association - IORA - handed over the chairmanship to Australia for 2014-15, for the first time.
Seeing clearly just how much our interests as Indo-Pacific countries are joined, the 20 littoral member states of IORA agreed that we would work more closely on maritime security, on fisheries management, economic growth more generally, sustainable development, tourism, trade and investment linkages. We also extended our discussion to the economic empowerment of women – and that was an issue that received wide support among the very diverse nations of the Indian Ocean Rim.
It is true that India has become more engaged in regional affairs, including through the two-decade old ‘Look East' policy and we must engage India broadly in the Indo - Pacific.
This region - stretching from the Arabian Sea to the Sea of Japan and to the shores of The Americas - represents a new centre of gravity for our economic and strategic interests.
In the Indo-Pacific arc, growing trade, investment and energy flows are strengthening economic and security interdependency.
Bringing the strategic interests of India and Australia together in an unprecedented way is tying our economies closer together.
Increasingly, we see ourselves as true partners working together to support regional security and regional prosperity.
We have vital shared interests in continued US engagement in the region.
And in a China that makes a positive contribution to regional peace and stability.
We are both committed to strengthening regional architecture.
The East Asia Summit is particularly important as we work to nurture habits of cooperation across our diverse region.
We both see a value in bringing our defence and security ties closer together.
Our first bilateral maritime exercise will be held in 2015, as our navies, armies and air forces increasingly work together.
We have shown a common interest in the stability of Afghanistan post-2014.
Australia is committed to supporting Afghanistan's long-term security and development and post-2014 we will contribute to the NATO-led train, advise and assist mission.
But there is even more we can do together in strategic policy, in operational planning, in disaster relief, in defence technology.
In counter-terrorism, in cyber, in fighting narcotics, the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
It is a Strategic Partnership of importance to both sides.
The importance of economic reform
But success is not inevitable and cannot be taken for granted.
We will not be able to forge the societies we want – and build the region we want, one of prosperity and stability – without at least a focus on reform, and an understanding that national success lies in developing strong ties with international partners.
As I have been travelling the region in my new role as Australia's Foreign Minister, I have delivered, what I believe, is an important message to our partner countries that Australia's foreign policy will be one based on economic diplomacy.
You see, for us, economic reform and trade liberalisation – not just for Australia, but for all our partners – are the keys to delivering more prosperity and stability for the region as a whole.
On election night, on the 7th of September, Prime Minister - elect Tony Abbott declared that Australia was under new management and was open for business.
By that he meant that we want to have a diverse, vibrant, growing economy that is internationally competitive, that: we support open, transparent, rules-based trading systems, we support an ambitious free trade agenda, a vibrant business sector, both at home and abroad, a business sector that is not held down by unnecessary red tape, and by the dead weight of regulatory over-accumulation.
We are setting aside special days of our parliament called “Repeal Days” where we will calling on parliamentarians to do nothing but repeal legislation and what a refreshing outcome that will be.
We want to make it easier to do business in Australia and not harder and we're prepared to put our international assets – including our diplomatic footprint – to work for that objective, to support the growth of our business sector.
That's why we have a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-led Consulate-General in Mumbai.
Along with our High Commission in New Delhi and our Consulate-General in Chennai, our Mumbai office helps to ensure we have the presence necessary to reach across India's most dynamic and trade-focused regions.
We have a total of 11 Australian representative posts in India (both DFAT and Austrade) that are led by Australians or local staff; and I should point out that that's the same number we have in China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan).
But our success won't be delivered only by Australia's decisions.
It will depend crucially on our ability to work with our key partners including India – to build a stronger and more prosperous region, and a more stable and peaceful global environment.
I want to turn to the G20 because the institution at the heart of global economic reform has become the G20.
And in the G20, Australia and India are already working hard together to achieve strong, sustainable and balanced global economic growth.
As an organisation, the G20 reflects the fast pace at which our world is changing.
Only a few years ago, before the Global Financial Crisis, it was the G8 that was paramount.
Institutional power shifted to the G20, reflecting both the rigours of the financial crisis and the long-term structural shifts in the global economy.
Countries like India and China, South Africa and Brazil are more heavily represented in global institutions than they were in the past.
As the host of the G20 next year, Australia is focused on an agenda to strengthen global economic growth and create jobs and job opportunities through empowering the private sector, improving the investment environment particularly for productive infrastructure, pursuing trade opportunities, removing unnecessary regulation and making it easier to do business around the globe.
India will be a key player in those discussions and Australia certainly looks forward to working with India closely as we settle the agenda in the lead up to taking up the chair of the G20 on the 1 of December.
We also want to ensure that the G20 remains relevant and vibrant and alive and that the leaders of the G20 nation members want to be there and to take part in its deliberations.
Growth through economic reform
On our respective economies, Australia has had 22 years of uninterrupted growth, despite the downturn of 2008.
We're a country of 22 million people. India is a country of over 1.2 billion people.
On the back of the reforms driven by then Finance Minister Singh, India has meanwhile created a middle class of hundreds of millions, achieving the historic feat of delivering millions, too, from debilitating poverty.
We both now recognise that prosperity is fuelled not only by domestic reform, although that is central, but also by the degree to which we can tie our economies together.
The opening up our economies has opened up Australia and India to each other.
A decade ago our trade was modest.
India is now Australia's fifth largest export market.
Our bilateral trade has increased by around a third in the past five years alone.
Indian companies used to be seen rarely in Australia.
Now all of India's major IT companies have a presence in our country.
Banks and manufacturing companies are also represented.
Likewise Australian banks, insurance providers, miners and infrastructure firms are active throughout India.
Indian companies have investments totalling around $10 billion in Australia, much of it in our resources sector.
And Australian companies are becoming more confident in investing in India, with investments worth about A$5.8 billion at the end of 2012.
As I emphasised to Foreign Minister Khurshid in Perth earlier this month, Australia is definitely open to Indian business.
We'd like more firms to follow the lead of those Indian companies who have set up shop in Australia.
Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement
But there is still more that we can do.
We are working on a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.
If signed, it would offer even more economic benefits for both Australia and India.
It should go without saying that the outcome must deliver commercially meaningful results for both countries and be mutually beneficial.
But I believe both sides are ready to be ambitious yet pragmatic when it comes to a trade agreement, because we know that a deal makes economic sense for both of us.
Behind any trade deal there must be a commitment to structural reform.
And the Abbott Government has commenced a program of significant reform at home simplifying regulations and the tax system.
Specifically we will be repealing the carbon tax and the mining tax, both of which were burdens on business, did not have the desired outcomes and threatened our international competitiveness.
We are also removing impediments to business confidence and innovation and we want to build on our shared strengths with India.
Energy and Resources
Lets just take energy and resources. Like all nations, India needs energy security.
So with vast resources and a relatively stable social and political system, Australia presents as a secure, reliable and long-term provider of energy resources.
We have been supplying Japan with energy resources for decades, and more recently South Korea and China.
We are now developing this relationship with India.
Our coal and LNG are set to become vital to India's development, helping fuel India's growth and prosperity.
Similarly, India buying our resources and investing in our resources sector is providing jobs and prosperity for Australians.
India is projected to move from 100 million tonnes of coal imports to 200 million over the next few years – making it the size of the current Japanese market for us.
Estimates suggest India will need 50 million tonnes of LNG by 2025.
Australia is likely to be the world's largest exporter of LNG by 2018.
India is increasingly reliant on nuclear power.
So we are negotiating an agreement that will enable the export of Australian uranium to India for peaceful purposes.
It is a cause of regret that having agreed in principle in 2007 to sell uranium to India, the then incoming government reversed that decision causing four years of unnecessary tension in the relationship before reversing the decision back.
The Abbott government is committed to this nuclear supply agreement and during our recent meeting in Perth, Foreign Minister Khurshid and I agreed on the importance of progressing this agreement as quickly as we can.
Australia's New Colombo Plan
Education also ties our nations together.
For example India is the second largest source country of international students in Australia and we welcome your students and we value their presence in our higher education and VET sectors.
The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund has supported more than 200 joint projects and collaborations between our universities.
As the Government is determined to take the relationship further, I believe that education is going to be the key to that relationship. It will be a key asset.
The Australian Government has a new and what I hope will be a signature policy, the Australian New Colombo Plan.
It builds on the original Colombo Plan that brought over 40,000 young people from our region to study in Australian institutions between the 1950s and 1980s.
Our new plan is in reverse. We propose to offer Australian university students, our undergraduate students, the opportunity to study in regional universities, and undertake internships with companies that are operating in the host country.
So sending our young people, our best and brightest, into the region will build our “Indo-Pacific” literacy, boost our innovation, and build ties with the regional leaders of the future.
I think that there can be no better investment from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade than investing in our young people so that they can come back to our country with new perspective, new ideas, new insights, understandings and of course, boost our productivity and prosperity, but also build relationships that will last a lifetime.
The original Colombo plan has alumni spread througout the region. I am always so touched by the experience of having a Prime Minister, or a former Prime Minister, Deputy President or President come to me and say that they know Australia and love Australia because they were a Colombo plan scholar.
We're pleased that this is also a priority for India, as reflected in the Indian Government's new “Connect to India” program.
On our New Colombo plan there will be a test or pilot next year in 2014 and thereafter we hope that India will become a part of Australia's New Colombo Plan so that we can send our young people to study in your universities. Of course we will continue to welcome Indian students to Australia.
The partnership between Australia and India is a partnership — and a friendship — that has deepened and matured as each decade has passed.
I believe that the best days of this relationship lie ahead, as we work together to build a strong, stable region and a stronger and more stable world.
The new Australian Government is determined to institute structural reform to unleash the full potential of our businesses and investments, and this is obviously in Australia's interest.
I also hope that it is seen to be in India's interests and that together we can have a shared future
I am so pleased to have had this opportunity to visit India at this time. I hope it is first of the many visits to this beautiful country. I have been here before and fell in love with the country and so the opportunity to be here as our Foreign Minister has made me very proud indeed and I look forward to greeting Indian members of parliament, business leaders, community leaders to our shores as our relationship continues to thrive, flourish and prosper.
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