NEW DELHI: An excerpt from ‘Talking Point‘, with Amitabh Mattoo, Professor, CIPOD, SIS, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Honorary Professor, University of Melbourne, Founding Director, Australia India Institute, Ex-Member of India’s National Security Advisory Board and Natasha Jha Bhaskar, General Manager, Newland Global Group in discussion with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi.
APR: Will this deal help India tackle some of the problems that hamper India’s manufacturing from becoming competitive with respect to China or Vietnam?
NJB: Well, that’s a great question. We will because that’s what we are trying to address here. That’s what India is trying to address here in terms of how it can really emerge as a solid manufacturing base for foreign countries, for foreign companies. That’s something which the trade and commerce minister repeatedly said on all the platforms. That we are asking Australian companies to come to India. Manufacture in India and export from India to other countries. That’s what he’s trying to promote in a big way. But in terms of, because you mentioned the multilateral partnership earlier, from the perspective of RCEP, I see that multilateral partnerships can emerge from the Quad partnership. Because the economic pillar of course, is something which is still at a very, very early stage and something that can be discussed. We do have working groups on climate change, on vaccine partnership, on clean technology, on cyber and critical technology. But, that’s where a big opportunity lies. Where you’re looking at a combined GDP of around $34 trillion between the U.S., Japan, Australia and and India. And they are interdependencies which can be easily explored. For example, if India needs raw materials for infrastructure, Australia has all the raw materials. If you’re looking for pharmaceutical connections, APIs. The U.S. has all the APIs. So, those sort of inter dependencies can be easily explored in the Quad partnership. That can be a starting point, I believe, for multilateral partnership between both countries, but Amitabh in terms of the question of corporate Australia, because that’s something that remains a huge challenge. Even at this stage, the trade deal is fine, or the ministers have been very proactive and positive about what this brings in terms of trade and exports of trade and services. But, what it means for investment, because if you look at the current data, we’re looking at 0.6% of Australia’s outward investment to India, which is lower than Australia’s investment in Bermuda, PNG, Netherlands or even Luxembourg. So that tells you a story and I’m glad Professor Matoo brought up that point about the investment funds. Yes the investment funds have been very cautious, not very happy about investing. We do have examples of Australian super capital earlier, but the current MOU and the current announcement of offering same interest rates to the investment funds here in Australia to India, how far that will really get translated in terms of investment is something that remains to be seen. What the political leadership has clearly gone on record to say is that we have done our bit. We have done what we could do for you. Now, it’s for businesses to show courage and walk the talk and to follow and make this economic engagement a reality. And that’s where corporate Australia will have to fight their anecdotal assumptions on India. Have to be more aware of the new reforms that are happening in India, which I personally feel has been a big, big issue. Most of them still have a very antiquated sense of India, and still feel that things aren’t happening. What sort of reforms are happening, what sort of changes have happened. So, I would imagine that the kind of allocation that has happened from Australia around AUS$280 million, and the kinds of announcements being made across diverse sectors, from technology to innovation to manufacturing, to education, partnerships, tourism, you say that that’s there. And also with the latest India economic strategy update, which is very categorical about post-COVID economic recovery measures. It would be good to really initiate the kind of a roadshow to make businesses more aware of the kind of changes that are happening in India. So, it’s no longer about opportunity-India, it’s about how-to-in-India. That’s the next level. How do you do business in India? Opportunity India is very understood. The business opportunity story is very clear.