Opening remarks - Round table with CEO forum - Mumbai, India

09 Mar 2023
Prime Minister

Can I welcome our guests, my fellow Australians who are here in very large numbers, but thank our Indian hosts for the very warm welcome that we've had here.

I feel as though I've been in India for some time, but we did arrive just a few hours ago, yesterday. But we have done an enormous amount, and this morning, myself and Prime Minister Modi have shared an intimate occasion with 100,000 people at the magnificent stadium there in Gujarat.

And it was quite simply one of the honours of my life and will be an incredible memory. This is my third visit to India, but my first as Prime Minister. I'm pleased to be here.

On the first occasion, I came in 1991 with a backpack, and I caught trains, I hitched rides, I caught the video buses overnight, and got all sorts of transportation to get around. But I do find that in order to get to really engage with the people of a country, get on the train is the way to do it.

I'm doing it a bit different now, I've brought my own plane this time. And we are getting around in a bit of a different fashion. But I am struck by something in common, which is the warmth of the hospitality of the Indian people.

But I must say, today, what we're about is essentially trying to work through ways in which both Australia and India can benefit from the relationship which we have. As close neighbours, as democracies, as people who believe in peace and security in the Indo-Pacific. And as neighbours who have an enormous potential to build on our relationship.

You are Australia's sixth-largest trading partner, we can do so much better than that in the future, I have no doubt. And as you rise with the extraordinary growth in development that we've seen over recent periods as well, we are very jealous of your economic growth rates.

But we have so many areas in which our economies are complementary. And that's why this, I can say to you in all honesty, when we were putting together the delegation here, this is, at least, because I've been around a while in politics, and I've seen a few delegations, as a former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in former governments, but Opposition Leader, this is the most serious business delegation that I've seen leave Australian shores.

And that says a lot about the opportunity that is there for growing cooperation, in trade, in tourism, in education, in resources, in manufacturing and value adding, in the shift that we're seeing in both countries and globally, to a clean energy economy as well.

The relationship is growing, but it has much greater potential. In the last seven years, we've seen our two-way trade double. But if you look at the growth of that trajectory, and you look at the amount of businesses who are here, not just this delegation, I was with the Smart Energy Council today, 30 Australian businesses, looking at two-way investment between our countries.

We can do so much more. And I was so pleased that the MOU has just been signed by the respective leaders of the BCA and the CII. It is a transformational agreement that has come into effect. But we really want to conclude, and I've raised with Prime Minister Modi this morning, progressing as well the upgrade of that, to conclude the Closer Economic Cooperation Agreement, to unlock the next phase, the phase of opportunity and investment in our common interest.

We have natural resources, we have critical minerals, we have research nous. India has manufacturing scale, has high domestic demand, a growing middle class, and enormous research capacity. On my last visit to India I went to Hyderabad. The transformation of a city like that, based upon information technology and new industries and innovation, is incredibly exciting for the world.

Government investing in Australian business literacy is really important to leverage the opportunities which are there. So I see this as, in my first year of my prime ministership, as a first step, a first step in what will be an era of unprecedented growth in our relations. And in that, I know that the governments of both Australia and India have the support of the business community of both as well.

And that is why this very significant gathering is something that will be written about, I believe, in 50 years, as just a turning point, in accelerating the economic cooperation and mutual benefit which will arise. So thank you very much for the warm welcome.