Indian Minister Piyush Goyal in celebratory mood in Melbourne

By Indira Laisram
Ray White Melbourne © Salty Dingo 2022 Aaron Francis

It is a fact that the shared love for cricket has bonded India and Australia for decades. And with the two countries having just inked its landmark trade deal – the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) – the two countries are now like the unbreakable “opening pair of Justin Langer and Mathew Hayden”, according to visiting Indian Federal Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles, Piyush Goyal, who began his three-day visit to Australia today.

It is a partnership and a wall difficult to break now, said Goyal, at an event hosted by the Australia India Institute (AII) of the University of Melbourne. “The values that we share really help us in defining this partnership… the rule of law, the way we believe in transparent systems of government, our shared values of democracy, and the fact that we both emerged out of the Commonwealth,” said Goyal.

Thanking the Institute and Allan Myers AC QC, Chancellor, University of Melbourne and Chair of AII for hosting him, Goyal, who was in a celebratory mood, said India and Australia are like long lost brothers who have been separated but united now. “We were one continent thousands of years ago, at least the maps seem to suggest that. The unity ECTA agreement gives us an opportunity to get back that brotherhood, fraternity and togetherness that was rightly due… but better late than never. That’s the sentiment behind the ECTA agreement which was achieved in six months.”

Ray White Melbourne © Salty Dingo 2022 Aaron Francis

Reflecting on the journey behind ECTA, Goyal called it a labour of love. While the Indo-Australia relationship in the past had more to do with people to people connect rather than business connect, ECTA is “a great way to begin because it is people who are going to define our business relations in the future. And so our focus has been a lot on the human dimensions of India-Australia partnership with education being one”.

Impressed with Australia’s advancement in the field of research as he toured the unviersity in the morning, Goyal said, “When I get back, I am going to suggest to my science and technology team and my agriculture research team to look at greater engagement with Australia, there’s a lot we can learn.”

Goyal wanted to leave “some food for the thoughts” for the university in the field of start-ups calling it a opportunity to tap through the investible surplus that every country has irrespective of size. “For instance, India’s demographic dividend of 1.35 billion population is its strength as everyone wants to be a part of the growth story. That gives a huge opportunity both for Indian and global businesses. Your investible surplus can help you get a fair return in India and our investible surplus can help create opportunities for business in Australia for educational institutions,” he said.

Ray White Melbourne © Salty Dingo 2022 Aaron Francis

With India’s IT industry having grown from one billion dollars in 200 to 178 billion dollars in the year gone by, Goyal hoped that technological engagement between Australia and India will play an important role as “we move forward”.

Importantly, with a substantive beginning in ECTA, he hoped a roadmap to a 100 billion US dollar trade target by 2030 is not impossible. Australia is the 17th largest trading partner of India and India is Australia’s 9th largest trading partner. The ECTA is expected to almost double the bilateral trade from $ 27.5 bn (2021) to about $ 45 to $ 50 Billion in next five years. ECTA is expected to create new employment opportunities, raise living standards and enhance the overall welfare of the peoples of both the countries, he reiterated.

Goyal also expressed his eagerness to seek the expertise of the Australia India Institute to strengthen bilateral relations. “You have played a very instrumental role in taking our relations to greater heights. Your work gives us an insight into the potential of our partnership… and you have built bridges between the two countries. We have a long way to work together.”

On a lighter note, Goyal summed up he will henceforth learn to use the word “mate” more often as a special significance to the friendship India has forged with Australia.

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