Address at FICCI Leads 2020
Inaugural Session: "Reimagine the World"
(Check against delivery) 13 October 2020
Thank you Uday.
First, I’d want to commend the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry for organising this event.
This year the international community has faced challenges like never before.
COVID has cost lives and livelihoods, and caused the most severe global economic crisis since the Great Depression. Some 600 million people have lost their jobs worldwide.
The global economy is expected to contract by 4.5 per cent this year, compared to just 0.1 per cent during the Global Financial Crisis.
And yet, as Prime Minister Modi has said, in this crisis we must seize opportunity—the chance to do things differently: to reimagine our relationships, rebuild our capabilities and redefine our ways of doing business.
It is often said that Australia and India are natural partners.
We are both democracies, we support the rule of law and multilateralism, and we champion open societies and individual freedoms.
But today, these values are being challenged on many fronts. It has never been more important for likeminded nations as ours to strengthen our international relationships and ensure they are based on both mutual trust and mutual benefit.
And that is what Australia and India are doing.
We have elevated our ties to the level of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and, at their Virtual Leaders’ Summit in June, Prime Ministers Modi and Morrison signed a series of high impact agreements designed to further deepen our strategic and economic cooperation.
Our new partnership includes an agreement to deepen our military cooperation through a mutual logistics support arrangement—allowing more interoperability and requiring the kind of trust only shared between the closest of defence partners.
Importantly it also includes a commitment to encourage expanded trade and investment flows to the benefit of both our economies.
Trade and investment are key, not only to rebuilding our economies post-COVID, but also to ensuring sustainable development. As we reimagine our trading relationships, we must also consider how to reinvest in communities and ensure that economic benefits flow to all.
Despite the current contraction in India’s GDP, the OECD predicts it will have one of the fastest rebounds in the medium term among major economies.
And over the long term, India’s economy is destined for considerable growth across a range of sectors.
In recent months, we have seen India embrace fundamental reforms designed to open up its agriculture, resources and labour sectors to investment like never before.
Throughout COVID we’ve also witnessed the growing capabilities and potential of India’s manufacturing sector.
Investing in these capabilities will not only help India to become self-reliant (‘Atmanirbar’), it will also assist it to integrate with global value chains and be competitive in a post-COVID world.
India is working to attract USD 100 billion in foreign direct investment over the next two years. In 2019, Australia’s investment in India was valued at $19.9 billion. But Australia is capable of doing more.
Australia has the world’s seventh largest pool of investment funds under management (USD 2.1 trillion) and the sector continues to explore opportunities to invest.
To further promote investment we have supported Australian pension funds to identify and connect with opportunities in India.
Only last week we held a virtual forum between India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund and a number of Australia’s largest superannuation funds to assess opportunities for investment.
Australia can also supply India with the critical elements needed to support sustainable growth.
The world sees massive urbanisation in India. With around 10 million people moving from rural areas to cities each year, India is estimated by 2025 to have 69 cities with a population of more than one million people.
This shift is driving an increasing demand for reliable, diverse and cost-effective energy.
And as India transforms towards cleaner technologies, Australia can be a reliable supplier of critical resources to help India achieve its ambitions.
For example, as India’s urban mobility shifts towards battery operated vehicles, as one of the largest producers of lithium, Australia can help India achieve its electric mobility goals.
Critical minerals like lithium, cobalt and zircon, can support India’s ambition to be the world leader in battery and electric vehicle manufacturing.
As well as seeking new investments in each other country, we are also looking at new ways of doing business.
At a time when the COVID crisis has accelerated a rising protectionist sentiment in parts of the world, it’s more important than ever we work to maintain our commitment to a liberal trading regime.
The experience of history is clear in reminding us that keeping markets open to trade is strongly correlated with economic growth.
And so Australia and India have agreed to re-engage on bilateral free trade negotiations.
COVID-19 has highlighted the need to reduce barriers to trade and keep markets open and enhance the resilience of diversified supply chains.
Together with Japan and Australia, India have also agreed to launch a Supply Chain Resilience Initiative with the aim of delivering a free, fair, inclusive, non-discriminatory and stable trade and investment environment for nations across the Indo-Pacific region.
Going forward, India’s global leadership and participation in multilateral initiatives like these will become even more important.
India is at an inflexion point – geopolitically and economically. Through its presence on the UN Security Council, role in the WHO, and its upcoming leadership of the G20, India’s voice will increasingly play a vital role in shaping the world’s future.
And as close friends, Australia welcomes the opportunity to support India on this journey.