Australian High Commission
New Delhi
India, Bhutan

PA/14/15 CEO Forum Co-Chairs Joint Statement

                                                             Australia-India CEO Forum Co-Chairs Joint Statement
The revitalised Australia-India CEO Forum met in New Delhi on 23 June 2015. After a meeting of the CEOs and Government officials from both sides, the Australian Minister for Trade and Investment, Mr Andrew Robb, joined the meeting and was briefed on the outcomes by the Forum co-chairs, Mr Gautam Adani, Chairman of the Adani Group, and Mr Sam Walsh, Chief Executive of the Rio Tinto Group.

Today’s Forum focused on identifying opportunities for and removing barriers to greater cooperation and economic partnership between Indian and Australian businesses. There was broad based recognition among the Forum’s membership of the significant complementarities in the strengths of the two countries, and a strong desire to harness these towards substantially enhancing bilateral trade and investment.

The Forum reaffirmed the importance of a high quality, mutually beneficial Australia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) in driving this and called on both Governments to be bold and ambitious in their approach to the CECA. All members expressed strong support for the conclusion of negotiations by the end of 2015, as agreed by the Indian and Australian Prime Ministers.

Mr Walsh said: “We are confident that the respective strengths of our two economies provide a solid base for an ambitious CECA that can deliver new market opportunities, enhance ways to do business, help drive growth, create new jobs and generate greater prosperity for India and Australia. We also welcome the prospect that the CECA outcomes will enable access to cheaper inputs and new technologies, and foster competition, investment and innovation in both countries.”

Mr Adani said: “We recognise that the resources sector remains central to development in both countries, and that competitively priced stable supplies of Australian minerals and resources contribute to India’s energy security. Cooperation between the two countries through such complementary strengths will enhance two-way investment and timely government approvals in this sector can play a strong role in facilitating this.

We welcome our Governments’ commitment to closer cooperation on issues regarding mining, particularly in skills development and innovation, including a joint commitment to supporting the Indian School of Mines in Jharkhand.”

Member CEOs highlighted the importance of investment in generating employment and economic growth. They encouraged expedited investment approval processes in both India and Australia. The CEOs welcomed the Indian Government’s introduction of legislation to support a single GST and its increase in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) caps in the insurance, defence and railways sectors, urging all levels of government to embrace and implement economic and regulatory reforms. They underscored the importance of certainty, predictability and timeliness in regulation and administration. The CEOs also noted significant opportunities for tariff reductions in boosting bilateral trade and investment.

The Forum members agree that institutional investment has a vital role to play in facilitating infrastructure development in both countries and welcome the Indian Government 2015 Union Budget commitment to increased government spending and a new National Investment and Infrastructure Fund to leverage private finance using government capital. Members noted the mutual gains that can be delivered by appropriately configured private-public partnerships in infrastructure development. Indian investors would welcome greater support from Australian banks to invest in Australia and in India.

India’s future growth relies on a skilled workforce - education and on-going skills development will be critical to this. Australian industry stands ready to support India in skilling its young people to become active contributors to India’s economy.

The Forum welcomed the Australian and Indian governments’ commitment to increase cooperation across schooling, higher education and the vocational education sectors. They also welcomed work regarding mutual recognition of qualification and natural movement of people – to encourage skilled labour mobility between our two countries.

Member CEOs noted that the Indian 2015 Union Budget included commitment to financial inclusion, which the Forum welcomed as an opportunity for mutual cooperation in the development of India’s banking and insurance sectors.

The Forum welcomed and expressed their appreciation for the continued high level political support from the Indian and Australian Governments including our engagement with Prime Ministers.

Mr Robb said that Prime Minister Modi had highlighted the potential between Australia and India in his speech to the Australian Parliament in November when he mentioned that in all key priorities for his government he visualised Australia as a natural partner. "Whether it is in energy or food security, education and skills, infrastructure or health Australia has world class capabilities, just as India can offer skills to Australia in a growing range of areas such as IT, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. A win-win CECA will allow both countries to make the most of these opportunities, which at the end, means growth and jobs in India and Australia.”

Mr Robb thanked and commended the work and focus of the new CEO Forum, saying that at the end of the day it was business to business links that would create new horizons for trade and investment between India and Australia. "We have got off to a flying start today and with the quality of CEOs on both sides, the sky is the limit."

The members agreed for the Forum to meet on a bi-annual basis and look to hold its next meeting in December 2015.

New Delhi
June 23, 2015