House debates

Thursday, 9 March 2023


Treaties Joint Committee; Report

12:26 pm

Photo of Jerome LaxaleJerome Laxale (Bennelong, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

In November last year, our Prime Minister met with the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to celebrate the rich connections between our two countries and our peoples. They discussed the finalisation of the economic cooperation and free trade agreement between Australia and India and its importance for expanding our economic relationship. Our two countries share a deep and abiding bond based on common values and interests and a commitment to promoting regional peace and prosperity.

India's economy is just extraordinary. The opportunities in India are enormous. Its society is dynamic. Its economy is diverse. India's economy has become the world's third largest, measured in purchasing power parity, and is considered to be one of the fastest-growing large economies. India's GDP has grown from an average annual rate of less than three per cent in the 1970s to an incredible seven per cent in recent years.

We have a large Indian diaspora in Australia, particularly in Bennelong. That represents a big plus for our business relationships and a big opportunity for enriching our multiculturalism. It serves as a national economic asset as well, providing a microcosm for the world, showing that people can live next door to each other in harmony, with different religions, different backgrounds and different political views. It's a great thing that, in Australia and in Bennelong, we can have all faiths living next door to each other in harmony. Our ability to all get along and relate to each other as human beings is a really strong value for us and for our nation.

Because of the work our government has been doing to ensure that those values are front and centre, Australia is back at the table as a trusted partner, engaging with the world. Growing our economic trade and investment flows with India is a key priority for this government. The entry into the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement in December last year takes us one step closer. This agreement is India's first free-trade agreement with a major developed country in over 10 years, and it provides Australian exporters a valuable advantage in the world's fastest-growing large economy.

The quality of this agreement, in terms of market access and opportunity for Australian businesses, demonstrates India's commitment to our bilateral economic partnership. Australian businesses are already excited to take advantage of the outcomes of this ECTA. Medtech companies—and there are many of those in Bennelong—such as Connect2MyDoctor have expressed their confidence that ECTA will help make their digital health platform more accessible in India. Tariffs on premium wine to India were slashed by half from over 150 per cent to 75 per cent, dropping even further to 70 per cent on 1 January 2023 and phasing down to 25 per cent over nine years.

India presents unparalleled growth opportunities for Australian businesses across a range of sectors from food and agriculture to technology—medtech, as we heard—but also, importantly, to green energy, health and education services. India's young population, economic demand and growth trajectory present enormous opportunities for our exporters. This trade agreement capitalises on this by delivering strong, immediate market access outcomes for Australia in goods and services. This agreement will eliminate tariffs on over 90 per cent of Australian goods exports to India by value. India's high tariffs on agriculture such as sheepmeat, wool, cotton, seafood, macadamia nuts and avocados will be removed. India will also substantially reduce its 150 per cent tariff on bottled wine above US$5 and has guaranteed to extend to Australia any deeper access provided to future free-trade-agreement parties.

More than 6,000 diverse industries from India, including textiles, leather, furniture, jewellery and machinery, will have duty-free access to the Australian market. It presents an enormous opportunity for companies and professionals accessing the Indian market. India has guaranteed Australian service suppliers in 31 sectors and subsectors the best treatment afforded to its future trade-agreement partners, benefiting suppliers of higher and adult education, business services, R&D, communications, construction and engineering services, as well as the traditional insurance, banking, health services et cetera. As I said earlier, Bennelong has a huge, growing South Asian community, and it's a true honour to be a representative of them here in this place.

It's so exciting to see Australia and India's strong people-to-people links strengthened because of this agreement. The labour mobility outcomes embedded will support trade and business and contribute to further cultural exchange. India's labour mobility commitments to Australia are consistent with the best of our existing free trade agreements. As our Prime Minister said last week, Prime Minister Modi is interested in increasing educational interaction between our two nations. He wants Australian universities to have a presence in India and Indian students to be able to study in Australian universities over there. We also encourage them to come back to Australia. I would, of course, encourage them to come to Bennelong, where Macquarie University is situated and has huge links with the Indian community.

This free trade agreement and the Prime Minister's ongoing discussions with India—he's there right now—represent just the beginning of our fruitful and prosperous relationship with them. The Prime Minister's current trip to India alongside the Minister for Trade and Tourism and Minister for Resources signals our very strong commitment to our countries' relationship and to fostering our economic, social and cultural links. Later this year, our Prime Minister will also attend the G20 Summit, an important visit that will continue to upgrade the relationship between our two countries, and, of course, Prime Minister Modi will visit Australia next year for the Quad leaders meeting.

The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement is a significant milestone in economic relations between India and Australia. It will remove barriers to trade in goods and services, improve market access for Australian businesses and create a more transparent and predictable business environment. It's ambitious, it's comprehensive, and it will promote greater cooperation and collaboration not only in trade investment but also in education, tourism, science and technology. It will allow us to develop a stronger, more prosperous relationship between our two nations, and it's testament to our shared economic values and our deep common interests. By reducing tariffs and eliminating non-tariff barriers, we are creating a more level playing field for our businesses to compete and succeed in each other's markets.

India is a fantastic economic partner, and I'm so excited to see our relationship prosper and our relationship continue. More trade is a key part of how we build the economic future in Australia that we want. Australia's open for business to India, and we're always looking at ways to create opportunities for Australian businesses to grow in India. Together we can build a more vibrant, dynamic, and prosperous future. By working together, we can harness our respective strengths and contribute to regional peace and prosperity, creating a better future for Australians and Indians across the world.

Debate adjourned.


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