Coming in off the long run: ramping up Australia’s economic engagement with India

24 May 2019

India is now the world’s fastest growing major economy and is on track to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2030.

Its impressive growth story is being driven by a transformative set of factors: a burgeoning youth population, strong domestic consumption and infrastructure investment, and the urbanisation of the world’s largest rural population. India is also undertaking a suite of economic reforms aimed at boosting business confidence and stimulating foreign investment.

Transforming Australia’s economic engagement with India

Recognising the scale of India’s opportunities, the Australian Government  commissioned Mr Peter Varghese AO, former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and former Australian High Commissioner to India, to produce an independent economic strategy for India – the most comprehensive and forward-looking of its kind.

The resulting report – ‘An India Economic Strategy to 2035: Navigating from Potential to Delivery’ – outlines an ambitious plan with practical measures to transform Australia’s economic engagement with India out to 2035.

The report’s key conclusion is that there is no single market with more growth opportunities for Australia than India. It sets ambitious targets to lift India into Australia’s top three export markets and to make India the third largest destination in Asia for Australian outward investment.

“India offers more opportunity for Australian business over the next 20 years than any other single market”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, November 2018

Endorsing a roadmap for our economic future

The Australian Government has endorsed the report and given in-principle support for its priority recommendations.

Given India’s size and complexity, the Government has endorsed the ‘states and sectors’ approach recommended in the report.

Australia’s economic diplomacy efforts will focus on 10 key Indian sectors identified as best matching Australian competitive advantages with Indian priorities, as well as 10 key Indian states.

The Government appointed a committee of ministerial champions for each of the report’s four lead sectors – education, agribusiness, resources and tourism – to provide high-level oversight of the response.

Some of the key actions over the first 12 months include: concluding a Memorandum of Understanding between Austrade and Invest India to promote bilateral investment flows; establishing an Australia-India Food Partnership; bringing Australian superannuation funds to India to examine first-hand its opportunities; and engaging with airlines to increase direct flights.

In a rapidly evolving Indian market, improving ‘India literacy’ in Australia and better leveraging the Australian Indian diaspora will also be critical to deepening our economic partnership with India.

“…I want more Australians – all Australians – to better understand India, to update their perceptions of India and to imagine where Australia’s relations with India can take us.”
Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Simon Birmingham, November 2018

The Indian Government has commissioned a complementary study of the opportunities for Indian business in Australia, to be prepared by the Confederation of Indian Industry. This is a welcome demonstration of its reciprocal support for a strengthened bilateral economic partnership.

Expanding Australia’s footprint in India’s resources hub

An important element of the Government’s response is the establishment of an Australian Consulate-General in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal. The report recommended expanding Australia’s presence in Kolkata as an immediate priority, noting it will enhance Australia’s ability to service the expanding mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector in India’s resource-rich eastern and emerging north-eastern states.

The Consulate-General in Kolkata opened on 26 March 2019, with Mr Andrew Ford appointed as its first Consul-General.

Find the India Economic Strategy and details of the Government’s response at an India Economic Strategy to 2035.

Last Updated: 24 May 2019