Kolkata, 13 March : Australia, the lone continent, which is currently the 5th largest trading partner of India with a bilateral trade of over 30 billion USD, will be among the top three trading partners of the country by 2035, said Andrew Ford, Consul General of Australia in Kolkata during an interactive session here this evening.
Addressing a Special Session on ‘Doing Business with Australia’, organised by the city’s premier Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry(MCCI),the Consul General said India and Australia had an ‘accurate and contemporary understanding’ of each other.
Quoting from the recent report of the ‘India Economic Strategy’, he said it projected that India, which was currently Australia’s fifth largest trading partner, was all set to be among its top three trading partners within the next 15 years.
He said Australia had a standard model for economic engagement with Asian countries, such as China and South Korea, whereby it supplied minerals and raw materials to the region. ‘But In case of India my country has chosen a different path for economic engagement as India is a consumption and services driven economy’, Ford pointed out.
‘The India Economic Strategy Report has maps out ten focus areas for Australian investment in India such as Education,which is a flagship sector,followed by Mining, Agri business ,Tourism as a high growth area, Infrastructure, Health , Financial Services, Sports and Technical Innovation’, he said.
‘Australia views India somewhat in the same way as its sees Europe as a federation of states. It has identified ten key States including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, West Bengal, Punjab and NCR’, the Consul General said adding the Report also selected West Bengal for its prominence in agriculture and mining with a rich hinterland.
But when his attention was drawn to the lack of any direct flight between any Australian city and Kolkata for the past many years and the presence of only two Australian mining companies in West Bengal despite it being described as the ‘Gateway to the East’,the Australian envoy who opened the first Consulate General’s office in Kolkata last year, said in view of increasing demand from the tourism and educational sectors,serious considerations were being made to introduce direct flights of both Air India and Quantas from this city. Currently there are 7 weekly flights from Delhi and Mumbai , he said.
Earlier welcoming the guest at the Chamber, MCCI Vice President Rishabh Kothari said driven by coal and international education the two-way goods and services trade between India and Australia currently stood at 30.3 billion USD and the level of two-way investment till 2018 was 30.7 billion USD.
As regards merchandise trade, India had a huge negative trade balance, as exports to Australia stood at 3.52 billion USD in 2018-19 against imports of 13.13 USD from Australia.
Education is Australia’s largest service export to India,valued at 5.5 billion Australian dollars, he said adding over 1.15 lakh Indian students currently studying in Australia recording about 33 per cent increase over the previous year.
As per Tourism,the Indian market holds huge potential for Australian tourism and it is forecast to grow four-fold to reach nearly 1.2 million annually by 2035,Kothari said adding more that 400,000 Australian tourists visited India last year.