Jennifer Westacott interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

10 March 2023

Event: Jennifer Westacott interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

Speakers: Kieran Gilbert, host, Afternoon Agenda

Date: 10 March 2023

Topics: India-Australia CEO delegation, trade and investment, decarbonisation, new industries


Kieran Gilbert, host: What's the deal that you've done with your Indian counterpart?

Jennifer Westacott, Business Council chief executive: This is the most senior delegation of business leaders to visit India with the Prime Minister. What we've done today, Indian and Australian CEOs, we've mapped out the areas of opportunity; traditional areas, mining and resources, but then new areas like medical technology, financial services, digital, education of course, which is a huge opportunity. And mapped out, what's the opportunity, what's the barriers? We've mapped out things that have to be done. So, it's a very practical conversation to try and get that level of ambition in our trade relationship right up there.

Kieran: Well, one of the things that I found most interesting is that, with this engagement that the Prime Minister's got now with Prime Minister Modi, you've attached this CEO forum to that leadership dialogue, essentially. So, whenever there's a leadership meeting, you'll have a CEO forum like this?

Jennifer: Yeah. So the Business Council today signed a memorandum with the Confederation of Indian Industry, our counterpart, that we will work together to have this CEO forum in conjunction with a leader's visits. That allows us to have that permanent, continuous dialogue and to say, "What's working? What's not working? Where are new opportunities? What do we need to break down?" And then, give the leaders a report, that we'll be pulling together to say, "Look, here are five or six policy areas that we think would actually really expand the relationship." And so that's going to really take us up another level,

Kieran: You spoke of the opportunities and critical minerals one big one. You can see that with your delegation, Rio Tinto, BHP, Twiggy Forrest is here. So the resources sector is all in when it comes to India. Is it just lithium or is it broader than that? Because we know we're a big coal exporter over here.

Jennifer: Well, coal is still really important. And that was a big message today, a big message from both the Australian and the Indian CEOs, that we have to keep coal coming into this market because steel is so important, and the whole issue of coking coal for steel production. But in conjunction with that, people talked about more and more renewables, more and more decarbonisation of those traditional industries. We talked about oil and gas. We talked about chemicals. We talked about, really interestingly, a conversation about new manufacturing. What's the manufacturing opportunity to actually value add to some of the Indian and Australian resources? Then things like Rio Tinto's got a fantastic history here of polishing diamonds. So again, using new manufacturing techniques. Then we went into the whole area of medical technology. So Cochlear has got a presence here, but the trade minister, Mr. Goyal, reminded everyone just how huge that could be if it was really set going. And then of course there's the whole digital medicine side. Of course, we've had a couple of vice chancellors, Universities of Australia here. The incredible opportunity of education, not just in universities, but in VET and TAFE but also in research. So look, time after time, we could just see the biggest population on the planet, this emerging tech technology, huge opportunities.

Kieran: And areas of joint interest in them not just in sport, but beyond that, traditions and so on. But when it comes to the future of this relationship, just finally, it's often been said, it's underdone. How do you take it as a business community and governments going from something that really should be a lot bigger than what it is into, the next level, as the Prime Minister said in this forum today?

Jennifer: Well, I think it's doing things like we've done today, which is to really map out in detail, well, why can't we do that? What's holding that back? Is it visas? Is it mutual recognition of educational qualifications? Is it the regulatory stuff on the Australian side or the Indian side? And we've mapped that out in detail now. We'll keep those conversations going. But I think the other thing is trust. Trust and confidence is what drives trade, drives deeper relationships with business. So just people getting together today, people meeting their counterparts, the two prime ministers obviously having such an incredibly strong relationship. And then there's practical working through the barriers. That sets us up for a real expanded opportunity. And I think people will look back at today and say, "That was the day we took the Indian relationship to another level."

Kieran: Jennifer Westacott, great to see you in Mumbai. Thanks for the chat.

Jennifer: You're very welcome. Thank you.


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