Trade Ministers from Australia, India and Japan, in a trilateral meeting on Tuesday, decided to work on a new initiative for regional cooperation on supply chain resilience in the Indo-Pacific region in light of the Covid-19 crisis and the recent global-scale changes in the economic and technological landscape.

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham, and Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Kajiyama Hiroshi, who met through a video conference, instructed officials to work out the details for launch of the initiative later this year, according to an official release.

The Ministers called for other countries in the region, which share their views, to participate in the initiative and said that business and academia could play an important role in realising the objective.

India wholeheartedly endorsed the broad concept of working towards ensuring a trustworthy, dependable and reliable supply chain in the Indo-Pacific region, Goyal said in his speech. “The diversification of supply chain is critical for managing the risks associated with supply of inputs including disciplining price volatility. We could provide the core pathway for linking value chains in the region by creating a network of reliable long term supplies and appropriate capacities,” he said.

The Ministers also said they would take a lead in delivering a free, fair, inclusive, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment and in keeping their markets open.

Goyal expressed hope that the proposed initiative should clearly try to bridge trade gaps and work towards enhancing mutual trade. Taking up India’s concerns on unbalanced trade with Japan, Goyal said it is seen that in specific products, despite India’s global exports and Japanese global imports being high with zero preferential tariffs, the procurement from India was limited.

This cuts across many sectors such as steel, marine products, processed agriculture, agro-chemicals, plastics, carpets, clothing and footwear, and needs to be addressed, he said.

Describing Australia, India and Japan as crucial players in the region, Goyal said that in 2019, the cumulative GDP of the three was $9.3 trillion while cumulative merchandise goods and services trade were $2.7 trillion and $0.9 trillion respectively. “With such a strong baseline, it is important that we use this opportunity to work towards enhancing the share of our trade and investment in the region,” the Minister said.