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White paper asks Australian government to engage with India on priority

Tuesday, 12 August 2014 - 5:45pm IST | Place: Melbourne | Agency: PTI
  • abbot-modi Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (right)

Ahead of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's visit to India next month, a white paper submitted to the Australian government has sought early inking of an economic cooperation pact and urgent engagement with the new Indian government to reverse the dwindling bilateral trade.

Citing that there was an urgent need to reverse the declining trade with India which dropped by over 26% between 2009 to 2013, the white paper titled 'The Australia- India Trade Relationship -- Past, Present and Future possibilities', sketched a blueprint for the federal government to take the bilateral relations to a higher level.

The white paper, a joint initiative of Australia India Business Council (AIBC) and Australia India Institute (AII), was presented to Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop in Sydney last week and is also expected to be presented to Prime Minister Abbott before his visit to India early next month.

The white paper has sought inking of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) on "top priority" and called for fast engagement with the new Narendra Modi-led government.

The white paper has suggested specific directions in which the government should proceed, breaking it industry-wise. It also provides information on Modi as a leader, his government's economic policies and its major goals for Australia to understand where and how to invest in the relationship.

The paper has been released before the two global leaders meet this year. Modi is expected to visit Brisbane for G20 summit in November this year after Abbott's visit next month. The paper pin-pointed that despite improvements in political and strategic fronts, trade relations were declining and if steps were not taken to correct both nations would stand to lose.

"Since 2009, the value of Australia-India trade has fallen from AUS $20 billion to  AUS $15 billion in 2013," the white paper said adding that "elevating relations to a strategic partnership has clearly not achieved one of the desired results."

"Australia should act quickly to take advantage of opportunities in India. Australia and India can both reverse the current declining trend in bilateral trade by engaging not only between governments but also at the business to business and business to consumer levels," it noted.

Suggesting to ink CECA with India at the earliest, to be timed to coincide with G20 summit, the paper noted, "Australia would benefit more than India from an Free Trade Agreement while India would benefit more in absolute terms."

From 2010 to 2030, the FTA joint feasibility study said Australia would gain 43 billion Australian dollars in real GDP in net present value (2008) terms, versus India's real GDP gain of AUS $46 billion.

The white paper has suggested to engage by bilateral trade fairs that would offer businesses at both ends to explore, forge partnership, initiate talks and attract investment and talent.

"Trade fairs can help increase understanding of important factors affecting international business success -- the political environment, cultural practices and the dynamics of undertaking international business," the white paper said.

The government should also rope in Australian organisations like AIBC and AII which can assist in fostering stronger bilateral relations, it said.

"The new government's (Modi) pro-business stance should see many opportunities become available for Australian firms and entrepreneurs, using the Australian techniques, research and expertise which match India's growing needs," the white paper said.

Breaking the areas of cooperation with India industry wise, the paper said Australia must focus on energy, mining, resources, infrastructure, financial services, food security, agriculture, water management, education, tourism and health and aged care and technology and IT sector.




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