Prez Kovind to Australian PM : suggest a receipe to boost relationship

Shishir Sinha Sydney | Updated on November 22, 2018

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) meets President Ram Nath Kovind at a bilateral talks in Sydney, on November 22, 2018   -  @rashtrapatibhvn

RCEP likely to be concluded next year

Cricket along with curry became the new metaphor for business when President Ram Nath Kovind and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed the India Business Summit here on Thursday. This is the first State visit by an Indian President to Australia.

Australia has endorsed the report, 'An India Economic Strategy to 2035: Navigating from Potential to Delivery’, released in July this year, recommending practical measures to cement India as a top economic partner.  The Morrison Government also announced providing in-principle support to its 20 priority recommendations.

“Please come to India, the pitch is ready,” Kovind said, while addressing the summit. The Australian Premier responded by saying that his country is ready to meet at pitch. The Indian President is visiting the country at a time when the Indian cricket team is also touring. He will watch the second T20 international cricket match between the two countries at Melbourne tomorrow [November 23]. The first of the three-match series was won by Australia on Wednesday.

“I gathered that PM Morrison has a taste for Indian food and, in fact, cooks many curry. I am sure he can help us come up with a recipe for even better Australia-India relationship,” the President said while acknowledging the fact that bilateral trade and investment relationship is below the potential. India and Australia’s merchandise trade stood at A$20,856 million (approximately Rs 1.08 lakh crore) for 2017 with Australia being 9th principal import source of India while 22nd principal export destination for India.

Exhorting Australian investors to come to India, Kovind used cricket as metaphor for business. “Australian businessmen and investors looking to India should borrow from the methods of cricketers. The most successful Australian batsmen in India have been those who have shown patience, read the condition carefully, settled down for a long innings, nurtured dependable partnership and not fallen for spin,” he said, while emphasising that improvement in Ease of Doing Business ranking and other reforms make India an attractive destination for investment.


He also announced that Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement is likely to be concluded next year. “India is positively and constructively engaging in negotiation and will contribute to conclusion of RCEP by 2019. India looks forward to a balanced outcome which result in modern, comprehensive and mutually beneficial economic partnership,” the President said. RCEP is an ASEAN-centred proposal for a regional free trade area, which would initially include the 10 ASEAN member states and those countries which have existing FTAs (Free Trade Agreements) with ASEAN – Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

Response by Australia

Australian Prime Minister responded to the President’s remarks in the same language. “I look forward to adding the onions, the garlic, the chilli, don’t forget that, the chicken and at the end of the day sitting down to a handsome banquet, courtesy Varghese’s report that I commend and I have the opportunity now to pick that up and run with that. So, we will meet you on pitch,” he said.

The Government commissioned Peter Varghese AO (a former High Commissioner to India and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Secretary) to write the report, which is according to Morrison, “provides a roadmap for our economic future with India.” He also said that India is the world’s fastest growing major economy and “offers more opportunity for Australian business over the next 20 years than any other single market.”

With a span out to 2035, the Government has agreed on an initial implementation plan. Key actions for the first 12 months include, a Memorandum of Understanding between Austrade and Invest India to promote bilateral investment flows, the establishment of an Australia-India Food Partnership, opening up new opportunities for agri-tech and services companies and Australia-India Strategic Research Fund grants of up to $500,000, designed to help researchers solve challenges shared by both nations, including energy storage, marine science and plant genomics.

Morrison also announced expansion of the Australia-India Mining Partnership at the Indian School of Mines, connecting Australian companies to India’s minerals-rich North Eastern states, supported by the new Consulate-General in Kolkata. Beside these, there will be more direct flights between the two countries. “We are prioritising four key sectors: education, resources, agri-business and tourism. Education is our biggest area of partnership, with outstanding opportunities to take it further. We’re already working to reposition Australia’s education brand to appeal more broadly to Indian students – including the introduction of a new one-stop shop digital education hub bringing together everything there is to know about studying in Australia – and increasing our digital and social media presence,” he said.

Published on November 22, 2018

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