KIERAN GILBERT: Now to the Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, who is in New Delhi as part of the Prime Minister’s mission there. He spoke to Sky News political reporters David Lipson from New Delhi and he’s told him that Australia will be taking a three-hundred strong business delegation to India in January.
DAVID LIPSON: Andrew Robb, thank you for your time. Trade between India and Australia is strong, but it has dropped off a bit in recent years. How are you going to turn that around?
ANDREW ROBB: Well in many ways, it is making sure that our business people understand the opportunity. It is a $15 billion two-way trade, but our two-way trade with China is $150 billion, ten times more. So the opportunities if we have the contact; and a lot of it is personal contact and trust and relationships.
But India is now starting to move in a big way and we can capture a lot of that opportunity. There’s so much that we’ve got in common between our two countries.
DAVID LIPSON: And that’s clearly where the big delegation in January next year will come into play.
ANDREW ROBB: Well that’s it. We have decided to have another return trip, soon, in January. I have decided to bring something like three hundred Australian business people with me for a week across four cities. And it will be, I think, a wonderful opportunity – not only to send a signal to India and to the Australia business community, but to in fact encourage a lot of relationships and opportunities to be identified.
DAVID LIPSON: That sort of thing is a great picture opportunity – it’s a great junket for those involved – but how much evidence is there that this sort of mega-delegation actually gets results – actually sees business deals done?
ANDREW ROBB: Well, it is a lot of work for people who turn up. It’s speed dating on a grand scale on many respects. But we took 700 people to China a few months ago – four cities; nearly one billion dollars’ worth of MOU’s and contracts were signed that week. And since then, direct results that we can identify show several billion dollars’ worth of news infrastructure; new hotels and other activity has occurred in Australia. So the evidence is there in spadefuls – this is a very effective technique.
DAVID LIPSON: Uranium here in India obviously a controversial element for some elements of the Australian community. Can you explain what’s been done to ensure that Australian uranium doesn’t end up in India nuclear bombs; and also to ensure that India’s nuclear power plants are safe enough for the citizens here?
ANDREW ROBB: Well firstly, they’ve already got – and they’ve had for thirty or forty years – nuclear power plants; and they have been – that’s old technology – they’ve got the new technology, which I think extremely sophisticated and safe, and recognised by the Americans and everyone else as being state of the art and very safe.
Secondly, they are looking to – by 2050 – have a quarter – 25 per cent of all their power usage in a country well over a billion people – will be generated by nuclear power station; and thirdly, we’ve spent years now with the Indian officials, satisfying ourselves that all of the protections and all of the processes are in place which will mean that this will be sued for peaceful power generation and nothing else.
DAVID LIPSON: As you mentioned, China is streets ahead in terms of overall trade compared to India. Why is that? Why is India so far behind in its trade with Australia?
ANDREW ROBB: Well in many ways there’s been a major focus on North-Asia. A lot of it was because of the resources demand coming out of China and Japan and Korea which has driven a lot of the relationships over the last decade or more. That sort of resource demand has not been so prominent out of India.
It is now starting – they really were, in many respects I think, ten or fifteen years behind China in terms of their readiness to open up their economy in a way really will prompt that sort of activity.
Now with the new Prime Minister, Modi, his whole history is man who has opened up areas that he has been responsible for.
There is a great enthusiasm – an expectation – that India is really going to grasp the nettle and institute the sorts of reform that will lead to a rapid increase in the prosperity across this nation.
KIERAN GILBERT: Trade Minister there speaking to David Lipson in India.
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