Visiting Indian President Ram Nath Kovind has exhorted Australian businesses to “hop, skip and jump” to India to benefit from the country’s remarkable growth story.
Delivering the annual Australia India Business Council address 2018 at a packed Shangri-La Hotel ballroom in Sydney recently, the President said Australia and India shared many commonalities and had much to gain from each other’s progress.
“In recent years, we have stepped up our strategic partnership, deepening our engagement in defence, security, technology and people to people ties. There is matching energy and heightened policy focus on our trade and investment relations as well,” President Kovind said.
He welcomed the recent release of the ‘India Economic Strategy to 2035—Navigating from Potential to Delivery’ and the Australian Government’s positive response to the report articulated by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “It has promising ideas and prospects,” the President said, adding: “The AIBC, I’m sure will take a lead role in supporting the report and its recommendations.”
He added that India and Australia share strong economic complementarities. Australia’s steady and stable growth over several decades has made it a shining story and India’s economic rise today is a global talking point, he explained.
Based on this shared economic prosperity, India-Australia trade in goods and services has grown over 75% in the last five years and stood at US$21.5 billion in 2017, he said. “We can, no doubt, do much better with a forward-looking mobility partnership. India remains committed to take the proposed Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement forward to further boost our trading ties,” he said.
Investment relations between the two countries, however, comparative to respective economy sizes and prospects, are yet to take off, said the President. The two-way cumulative investment stands at just under $A30 billion. “I am certain this will change soon,” he added.
“Australian pension funds, high-end technologies and innovative products are a natural fit for India’s growth and development. We can do a lot more together be it on trade, investment, technology, skills or education. The prospects and possibilities are not just manifold but limitless. We should collaborate with each other on cyberspace, artificial intelligence, blockchain development and next-gen technologies to shape and guide the fourth industrial revolution,” he said.
President Kovind hailed the role of the AIBC, saying it played a key role in driving Australia-India business and investment connections. The AIBC was established in 1986 by then prime ministers Bob Hawke and Rajiv Gandhi to promote, support and expand bilateral trade, investment and strategic partnerships between the business communities of Australia and India. It provides a forum for establishing contacts between members and key stakeholders interested in bilateral trade and business opportunities between Australia and India.
President Kovind also delivered a similarly positive message at the Australian Financial Review India Business Summit 2018. He, and Prime Minister Morrison, also unveiled a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Jubilee Park in Parramatta.
President Kovind was in Sydney on Thursday, 22 November, the first stop of his historic three-day state visit to Australia, the first ever by an Indian president. He spent Friday in Melbourne before flying back to India on Saturday.