MELBOURNE – Australia’s economic ties with India can be greatly enhanced and an FTA deal be signed if the two governments were willing to strengthen the people-to- people linkages, Australia’s Parliamentary secretary said during a meeting in Sydney.
“Governments can sign Free Trade Agreements and signal enhanced cooperation but it’s people who truly link nations,” Alan Tudge, Parliamentary secretary to Autralian Prime Minister Tony Abott said while addressing a group of 30 young delegates at the Australia India Youth Dialogue (AIYD).
“The economic relationship can be greatly enhanced if government leaders are willing to make it happen. India’s perspective on the trade and investment relationship mirrors our own and we have found a friend in Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi.
“It’s great to see so many of the best and brightest minds, the future of our nations, here to strengthen the relationship between the two great countries. Initiatives like the AIYD are crucial to our story,” Tudge said.
Tudge said there are three categories of countries that are particularly important to Australia, our neighbours, our major trading partners and our important strategic partners. India falls in the all three categories.
“India and Australia have a relationship built on a commitment to democracy, the rule of law and a shared history,” he said, adding that the two nations had together fought at Gallipoli, a campaign that forged our nation.
“We were brothers in arms at the siege of Tobruk. People from India have landed on our shores since 1860 and today, almost half a million people of Indian background call our country home. Back in 1795, the first ship of cargo to exit New South Wales contained mahogany and cedar bound for India,” Tudge said, adding that the most dynamic part of the relationship was economic.
He referred to World Bank prediction of India overtaking China as the world’s fastest growing economy in 2017 and emerging as principal source of energy demand from 2020.
“While two-way trade between Australia and India is around USD 15 billion a year, this is only a tenth of our trade with China, so there is a huge untapped potential in the trade and investment relationship,” Tudge said.
“The Indian Government’s slogan is ‘Come, Make in India’, a reflection of our own government’s push to ensure that Australia is ‘open for business’,” he said.
Tudge said he saw ‘Australia as a major partner in every area’ of India’s ‘national priorities’ including skills and education, electricity, affordable healthcare, infrastructure, energy–clean coal and gas, renewable energy for nuclear power, cities that are smart, sustainable and liveable.
In 2014, cooperation agreements between the Australian and Indian Governments were signed in tourism, security, social security, arts and culture, and education