DESPITE the challenges Australia faces with trading partner India there are opportunities and rewards to be had for Australian companies willing to establish strategic alliances and play by the local rules.
That is the message Australian High Commissioner in India Penny Wensley had for a breakfast gathering at Fraser’s last week, the third in the WA Business News’ Meet the Ambassador series.
Ms Wensley said while bilateral relations between Australia and India were good, Australia needed to “do the heavy lifting” in its relationship with India.
She said India was focused on its relationship with the US, Europe and the Association of South East Asian Nations and that Australia needed to work to cement its position in India’s trading agenda, which suffered during disputes over its nuclear testing policy a few years ago.
Ms Wensley called for high level visits from both Australia and
India to stimulate the relationship and overcome old stereotypes of cricket, curry and corruption that she said were evident in both the Australian and Indian perspective.
“We simply don’t have sufficient appreciation of each other’s cap-abilities, strengths and potential and what we need is a completely new paradigm for the relationships,” she said.
Drawing similarities with the Chinese market, Ms Wensley said the Indian market was not for the faint-hearted or the impatient and Australia had to be willing to take the time to nurture relationships with trading partners in India.
“You’ve got to be strategic, got to talk about collaboration, strategic alliances and you’ve got to work hard at it,” she said.
“There is a long way to go, but our advice [the Australian High Com-mission in India] is to focus on key sectors and particular states where there are niches…look for complementarities.”
Ms Wensley said Australian companies should identify changes in India when looking for trading opportunities and listed current opportunities including the energy sector, cotton, wool, education, information technology, biotechnology, healthcare and financial services.
She said while the export statistics she cited did not include services, WA was a large exporter to India.
“WA is doing very well. Overall exports [from WA] to India in-creased by 50 per cent in the last couple of years,” Ms Wensley said.
She said several WA exports in-creased this year including fresh fruit which increased by 80 per cent to $800,000; pulses which increased by 50 per cent to about $8 million; titanium dioxide which had a three-fold increase to $11 million; industrial machinery which increased tenfold to $2.1 million and total wool imports which had a $10 million dollar increase over the previous year, bringing it to $51 million.
Ms Wensley said despite hurdles such as an overly bureaucratic government sector, chronic energy shortages, corruption and security concerns over terrorism in the reg-ion, Australia and India shared similarities such as dry land farming and drought management and that common ground between the nations could be found.
“There are big opportunities for Australia and WA to be doing business in India,” she said.
“Go in with your eyes wide open, take account of the settings. Look carefully at what they are doing, but believe me, Australian and Indian relationships are in good shape and we are well positioned to develop them in the future.”
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