Interview with UTV Bloomberg, Mumbai
Transcript, E&OE, proof only
16 November 2013
Correspondent: Welcomes the minister and introduces the show
Correspondent: This is going to be always something that we have waited for as to who are we going to get from Australia to talk about the avenues in India and this is a very interesting place to be right now. So lets start off by talking about your trip itself. What kind of interactions have you had with your counterparts here in India
Minister: I have come to Mumbai and I will be going to Delhi tomorrow to underscore the fact that Australia sees our relationship with India as very important. The new Coalition Government in Australia is determined to ensure that India is one of our foreign policy priorities in terms of trade and investment but also our strategic partnership. So my visit here is to meet with Australians doing business in India and Indians doing business in Australia and while there is a significant level of trade and investment we believe there is potential for far more two way trade and two way investment. We have things India needs and India has things that we need and we think that there is a great partnership ahead.
Correspondent: Talking about partnership, from an Indian standpoint, one of the core sectors that Australia can contribute to is the power and the energy sector itself. There has been a lot of talks about the nuclear sector too. Anything that you can elaborate on?
Minister: We are certainly aware that India needs energy security and Australia has committed to sell uranium to India for civilian purposes and there is an agreement, a supply agreement, being negotiated at the moment. There are a few issues that need to be sorted out but the new government is determined to ensure that we conclude that agreement as soon as possible. In fact I met with Foreign Minister Khurshid in Perth recently and we both agreed that the supply agreement should be concluded as quickly as possible. But it's not just in uranium that Australia can be a supplier to India and its energy needs. By 2018 Australia should be the world's largest exporter of LNG and we hope that we will be able to provide LNG to the Indian market as well.
Correspondent: Since we are talking about partnerships with India itself, I wanted to ask you about the FTA since that has been really the other talking point, when we talk about India and Australia. How is that shaping up and how do you see that going from here?
Minister: We are very keen to conclude the Free Trade Agreement with India. Australia has been working on Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Japan and China in addition to our existing bilateral and free trade agreements but an agreement with India would be very significant for us and we believe that it will be mutually beneficial for both economies. From my discussions with ministers and business people here in Mumbai, I believe that both countries are ready to be ambitious yet pragmatic about the scope of a Free Trade Agreement and it can cover many areas that I think will be of interest to both sides.
Correspondent: Is there anything that you look at specifically when we talk about investment opportunities and the Indian scenario right now because there is ample hope and opportunity when we talk about the Indian market right now where one could actually look at some investments taking place. Anything that you would like or look at in terms of investments couple of years from now?
Minister: Certainly in the infrastructure area, we are aware that India's economy is continuing to grow, perhaps not at as expected but nevertheless at a very good rate of growth compared with the global economy. We see a lot of opportunity for infrastructure investment in the productive areas such as roads, ports and the like. We are also very interested in being involved in the technology sector, the financial sector. Australian banks are here in India and we are aware that there are new guidelines involving foreign banks and we are very keen to ensure that Australia is here and investing in India.
Correspondent: That's a valid point and one of the key things to watch out for will be the banking space. One of the other subjects that come up when we talk about India and Australia relations is that the fact that couple of products from Australia, for eg, coal is used extensively in India and everybody knows the kind of consumption. But last couple of months, there has been a voice from the Indian ministry saying that there needs to be a cut down in consumption as far as coal is concerned. Has that left any kind of hurt in Australia terms of export? Do you think that stance needs to be changed?
Minister: We are certainly keen to export across the board. We want a much broader and deeper and diversified export relationship with India and so we see enormous potential not only in those areas but as I said in energy supply, agriculture products but also in expertise. Take the mining and resource sector, for eg, Australia has significant experience in extractive industries in minerals but also offshore oil and gas and this is the kind of expertise and technology and equipment that we will be very keen to sell into India.
Correspondent: That is the other follow up question I wanted to ask you since you mentioned about industries that you would like to see invest in India. What would you like to see as far as India corporates are concerned as there is some Indian presence when we talk about Australian markets. Are there any specifics that you would like to see coming in to Australia from the Indian market?
Minister: India into Australia?
Minister: Already we are seeing significant investment in thermal coal and coal deposits particularly in Queensland. In Western Australia we are seeing investment in our minerals and resources sector. Likewise, we would like to see Indian companies investing in our infrastructure needs. We are open for business for Indian investment. We are very keen to see it in our financial sector as well. Another area where we cooperate so closely is in education. Educational services being provided in India but also ensuring we provide a very good experience to Indian students that are studying in Australia. So there are many levels of engagement between our two countries and my visit here is to highlight our deep interest in enhancing the relationship across all sectors.
Correspondent: As you mentioned about the strategic importance that both India and Australia offer. Can you elaborate on your views from a time period of 2 to 3 years from now not only from and India-Australia point of view but a regional point of view? How both the countries can manage to leverage out of the fact that they are two large economies in the region and are strategically located so close to each other.
Minister: Australia and India are working very closely on a trilateral relationship with Indonesia but also as part of Indian Ocean Rim Association. Twenty littoral states around the Indian Ocean are exchanging ideas and working together on maritime security and Australia and India are very significant players in this association on maritime security, fisheries management, on disaster relief efforts, on trade, investment, tourism, education. So I think it's a question of Australia looking west, India looking east and around the Indian Ocean Rim we will be strong strategic partners.
Correspondent: The other question is the presence of IT companies in Australia and the work that comes to and fro because of these IT companies. What is Australia's standpoint when we talk about the Indian IT majors.
Minister: We are delighted to see that all of the major Indian IT companies have a presence in Australia. I think that's good for our business and good for your business and we want to make it easier for India companies to do business in Australia. So we have committed to a series of reforms to lift red tape, to take out unnecessary regulation from the economy, to ensure that companies get access to the Australian market. Likewise, we seek access to the Indian market. So the new government has a very clear focus on productivity, on increased trade, increased investment.
Correspondent: You mentioned about education and that really arises a lot of interest from the Indian point of view. That is one clear motive that we really enjoy Australian education system itself. Going forward from here, what kind of policies or offerings are you looking at as this is one segment that generates a lot of interest?
Minister: What obviously we need to maintain is a high quality education system and provide value for money to continue to attract Indian students to Australia. But the new Abbott government has a policy that might surprise some people. We want to send Australian students to study in the region and we are very keen, under what we have dubbed the New Colombo Plan to send Australian students to study universities in the region including, in a good time, in India. So it's the reverse of the original Colombo Plan which saw about 40,000 young people come and study in Australian universities between the 1950's and the 1980's. We are going to reverse that and give opportunities to young undergraduate Australian students to take up places at universities in India as well as other countries. In that way they will gain new perspective and understanding and get ideas and insights of our region and come back to Australia and not only add to our productivity and prosperity but also build networks that I hope will last for a lifetime so that they have a greater understanding of the region in which we live.
Correspondent: That's a great thought. Which are the other sectors that you would like to see India and Australia partner from here?
Minister: Oh there are so many. Let's take areas like IT; there are many areas there that we could partner there. Today I witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Indian Ministry of Health and Australia's National Trauma Research Centre in the health sector, in health and medical research, in cyber space, in agriculture, in water management. I could go on and on. I think we have so many complementary sectors and that's why I am excited about the potential of the Australia-India relationship.
Correspondent: In 2 to 3 years from here or probably say a 5 years program as well, how do you see India and Australia partnering. How do you see some of your agenda panning out here?
Minister: I would hope that we have a true partnership in economic and strategic terms. We are already seeing greater engagement between military and defence personnel and that's why the navies and armies are on the verge of conducting joint exercises starting next year and I think that that's a good sign so we can be strategic partners. If we are able to conclude the Free Trade Agreement, we will open up a whole range of opportunities. The nuclear supply agreement is also important. It takes our ability to be a trusted and reliable energy supplier to a new level. In iron ore, for example, we believe that India's economy will continue to grow, you will need the steel for the infrastructure and Australia can provide the iron ore. So in many areas Australia's strengths, in terms of what we have to offer, complement what India needs.
Correspondent: It's been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much for your time
Minister: Thank you