CEO Roundtable Meeting with the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi: Remarks by Jennifer Westacott

19 November 2014

These are opening remarks made to a roundtable meeting of CEOs with the Honourable Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, in Melbourne.

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Your Excellency, Governor Chernov.

Prime Minister Modi.

On behalf of the members of the Business Council of Australia who are here today, thank you for taking the time to hear about our experience of doing business with India.

The Business Council represents the chief executives of 120 of Australia’s largest companies across all sectors of the economy.

The chief executives you will hear from today are committed to deepening their engagement with India.

We greatly admire your determination to ensure that India is ‘open for business’.

Or, as you put it, that it moves from ‘red tape to red carpet.’

The many reforms you are undertaking, including your commitment to upgrade India’s infrastructure through a one trillion dollar investment plan, will accelerate India’s journey to become an economic superpower.

At the G20 Summit in Brisbane, you said that reform cannot be done by stealth.

We in Australia know that good reform is painstaking, incremental and it must always be in the interests of people.

It will be increasingly driven by innovation and technology.

We share your vision for reform.

And we know that it will benefit both our countries.


India is our fifth largest export market and our tenth largest trading partner.

Given the importance of our strategic relationship, the economic relationship has enormous scope for growth.

We applaud last week’s announcement that your government will commit to the Bali Trade Facilitation Agreement.

We also welcome the pledge by our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, to complete a free trade agreement with India within a year.

It was just 12 months ago that Prime Minister Abbott pledged to complete three North Asian Free Trade Agreements during 2014.

Yesterday, his government achieved this ambition with the completion of a historic agreement between Australia and China.

The FTAs with China, Japan and Korea – and hopefully in the near future with India – establish the foundation for this country to tap into the enormous growth underway across Asia.


In that context, let me say a few brief words about energy and resources – my colleagues will have more to say on this shortly.

Australia is a stable, reliable and safe supplier of energy.

Last year, Australian coal exports to India accounted for almost $5 billion.

We are the 2nd largest exporter of coal in the world, the third largest exporter of uranium and the 4th largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

We are set to become the largest exporter of LNG in the world.

We are, therefore, well positioned to expand our energy exports to meet India’s growing energy demand.


To sum up.

India is poised for extraordinary growth.

There are many opportunities for Australia to contribute to that growth.

Our proximity to India, our experience doing business in the region and the quality of our resources – both our physical resources and our educated and skilled population – set us apart.

But it is our shared adherence to democratic principles, our strong cultural connections and our love of cricket that is the glue that converts an economic relationship to a lasting friendship.

We look forward to working with your government to realise these opportunities, and help our nations prosper together.



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