Indo Pacific Business Summit

  • Speech


Thank you – can I say what a pleasure it is to be taking part in the Indo Pacific Business Summit in 2021.

Only a year ago, the international community was still battling with the first awful phase of this pandemic – so it's a tribute to human resilience that we've found ways like this to keep getting on with business, even as we continue to fight the virus.

As much as this pandemic is a health crisis, it has also put all economies around the world under extreme stress.

Business confidence will be a key part of our economic recovery – so business summits like this are important for keeping the conversation going about how we can collectively rebuild after the worst of this crisis is behind us.

Importance of Indo-Pacific

One fact that this pandemic has well and truly cemented is the critical importance, in the 21st Century, of the Indo-Pacific.

If global power in the 20th Century hinged on the Atlantic Ocean, these days it is far more disparately spread across the world, and we can no longer pretend to find solutions that do not draw in and engage the Indo-Pacific.

This virus originated in the Indo-Pacific, and vaccines will not put it in its place around the world without the active involvement and support of the nations of the Indo-Pacific.

India is a great example of that fact – not only as the “pharmacy of the world”, but also through its own efforts to vaccinate and protect the vast Indian population and through its global efforts in vaccine diplomacy.

As much as international conferences like this one often focus on the reality of increasing global strategic competition – there is also a flip side evident in the world today through the COVID crisis.

That is: that nations around the world have relied on global rules-based cooperation to get us through this crisis…

…from the supply of globally developed vaccines around the world…
…to the support many nations, like India and Australia, are providing to smaller nations less able to provide for their own needs through this crisis…
…and so on.

Infrastructure and global supply chains have been a key part of the international trade and investment landscape for decades – but rarely have we had such a good demonstration of just how important they are.

Our capacity to share PPE, ventilators, vaccines and everything else in between has exposed the critical importance of supply chains and the infrastructure we rely on to move things around, and in some cases the vulnerabilities inherent in the systems we used pre-COVID.

Bilateral and minilateral ties

Lying underneath rules-based global cooperation, of course, is the critical layer of direct bilateral relationships.

I'm particularly conscious of the increasingly important collaboration between Australia and India over the past 12 months, particularly under Dr Jaishankar.

Australia and India are working together closely on a whole range of fronts, following the historic elevation of our relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership just over a year ago.

COVID-permitting, we plan to make as much of this as we can over the next 12 months, particularly the  as we come up to 75 years of relations with an independent India next year.

More and more, our strategic perspectives and our economic interests are in alignment – including on some of the critical issues you will discuss here at this conference, such as:

  • the recovery of trade flows
  • supply chain resilience
  • critical technology and minerals
  • Australia's potential to contribute to meeting India's infrastructure needs
  • the importance of fiscal reform
  • and the many ways in which we can make business easier and simpler in a post-COVID world.

We don't only work with India directly, but we are increasingly working together regionally and in broader international contexts.

The Quad is the most famous of those contexts.  The inaugural Quad Leaders' Summit hosted by President Biden in March sent a powerful signal that Quad partners are committed to acting in support of an open, inclusive and resilient region.

As Prime Minister Morrison recently said, the Quad is an enabler of freedoms and prosperity within our region.

Likewise, we collaborate with India in innovative groups like our trilateral with France – and through the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

We also welcome engagement with both Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean partners at a time when those two regions share many common concerns, such as on climate change.

Equitable vaccine access

Unsurprisingly, a lot of our discussions with India lately have been on our common concern of making sure vaccine distribution is fair around the world.

India is a leader here, having provided millions of vaccines around the world, including to countries in its immediate region such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, even as it has increasingly struggled with its own second wave.

As well, with Australia, India is actively engaged in the Quad Vaccine Partnership, which will expand access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in the Indo-Pacific, including through supporting a boost in production by at least one billion doses by the end of 2022

Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative

But we also work together on a range of other fronts.

I can announce today several practical steps Australia is taking in support of India's Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative, first announced by Prime Minister Modi at the East Asia Summit in 2019, and Australia's commitment to lead on the Initiative's marine ecology pillar.

Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is forming a “knowledge partnership” with India's National Centre for Coastal Research to drive collaboration on marine plastics. 

This Australia-India partnership will work with countries across the region on what is a shared challenge.

I am also pleased to announce the recipients of grants awarded to support the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative.

Chesterfield Lane Pty Ltd will be working with the Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata and the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore to identify opportunities to increase regional collaboration on marine ecology in Southeast Asia, the Bay of Bengal and the Pacific.

The Energy and Resources Institute will be working with the University of Queensland on risks and opportunities for deep sea bed mining in the Indo-Pacific.

Monash University will be working with the Centre for Public Policy Research to identify ways to improve trade connectivity and maritime transport.

And UNSW will be working with the Madras School of Economics on ocean accounting – a key area that organises the data we need to make decisions about how to manage our oceans.

So many areas where we are working together across the Indo-Pacific, and where Australia-India collaboration is assisting Indo-Pacific countries.

I wish you luck for the rest of the conference.

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