Australia-India trade meeting – Industry comment

Leigh Howard, CEO of Australia’s National Centre for Asia Capability, Asialink Business at the University of Melbourne, says while boosting business and economic ties will be on the agenda, if we want to stake a claim in India’s ascension, we need to work harder on deepening our investment in a nation set to become the world’s third largest economy by 2030.

He says with every ‘booming’ opportunity, it’s important to look past the hype and understand how it will play out. This won’t be a goldrush scenario for every Australian business.

“What characterises the India opportunity is the extent to which it’s looking to Australia as a partner in its future, with a confluence of strategic interests bringing our two nations closer,” says Mr Howard.

“The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) inked last year offers unique access for Australian exporters. The benefits it provides are considerable and make us the envy of many other trading partners.”


“India’s still a long way off from having the affluent consumer profile we’ve benefited from in other markets. India is not another China, and nor should we wish it to be.”

“Investment is increasingly what countries like India value most from their economic partners. India wants to see overseas companies establishing substantial, on-the-ground, value-adding operations – and engaging in activities which bring innovation, employment, technology transfers, and capacity building.

“Australian investment in India remains low. Only 0.6 per cent of Australian outbound investment in 2021 went to India, ranking it as our 19th largest destination for foreign investment. This is less than half the amount we invest in the Netherlands and one-third of what we invest in France.”

“This clearly represents an underdone aspect of the relationship and one which should be addressed. While we know India will offer some of the most compelling growth opportunities in the world, we still have a long way to go if we want to participate, and be seen to participate, in India’s growth trajectory.”

“A crucial challenge will be shifting outdated business perceptions of India in Australian boardrooms. A lot is written about India’s transformative rise, but most businesspeople are not economists – they require practical, contemporary, and granular information about investment opportunities.”

ABF media

“More also needs to be made of Australia’s existing investments in India. Macquarie, BHP, Wesfarmers, Cochlear, Linfox, and ANZ all have operations on the ground. ANZ alone employees more than 7,500 staff in Bengaluru, one of the more sizable Australian footprints.

Australian universities are also gearing up with Deakin, Wollongong, and Melbourne University planning to expand their physical presence in India.

Asialink Business is also a B20 India Taskforce member on Digital Transformation, and currently delivering the ‘Boosting Economic Ties: India-Australia Investment Program.

Also read: How to get your business ready to welcome Indian visitors


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