Western Australia heads to “Destination India” with most ambitious trade and investment mission

WA accounted for 17 per cent of total goods trade between Australia and India.

By Roger Cook, MLA

What do a Geraldton fisherman, a Perth university Vice-Chancellor, a Pilbara mining executive and a Margaret River winemaker have in common?

They will all be in India tomorrow as part of the biggest ever business delegation ever to leave Western Australia.

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What unites these seemingly different operations is an eye to the future in the land of a billion opportunities. This is the most ambitious investment and trade mission so far since Australia re-opened its international border.

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There will be about 110 business people from 73 organisations, along with myself and the Minister for International Education and Culture and the Arts, David Templeman.

Where we are headed in the world’s second-most populous nation and the world’s largest democracy of around 1.4 billion.

But it is not just the size of India that makes it a key international market for WA.

India’s population is young and its economy is rapidly growing and changing. Their economy is diversifying through industrial and manufacturing growth and increased consumption from its rising middle class.

I have been spreading the message for some time now that WA is open for business and open for tourism; open for investors and open for workers and studies.

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WA has one of the strongest economies in the world matched with a safe and relaxed lifestyle reinforced by our world-leading COVID-19 management.

The Premier and I have both been on various strategic trips to key and emerging investment and trade markets to spread these messages

They include Singapore (where tourism to WA in May bounced back exceptionally well), Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Ireland and Qatar.

This week I want a strong message to be heard that we are serious about our engagement with India and we want to lift the relationship.

India tourism to WA was above 80 per cent of pre-COVID levels last month. We’re pushing hard for a direct flight between Perth and India to make it even easier to get here

India’s GDP is about $US3 trillion but to unlock the significant opportunities ahead, we must foster even closer economic and cultural ties. That’s where this investment and trade mission comes into play as part of our diversification strategy.

The businesses on the delegation fall within six different streams: international education and skilled migration; mining and mining equipment, technology and services; energy; innovation hubs and smart cities; primary industries; and tourism, events and creative industries.

Over the course of the eight-day mission, we will travel to four cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Visakhapatnam and Chennai.

Delegates will participate in an extensive program of activities, including government and corporate meetings, site visits, industry briefings and roundtables, one-to-one business matching, and networking events with the Indian government and industry representatives.

In 2021, India was WA’s seventh-largest trading partner with total trade valued at A$4.6 billion.

Last year, WA accounted for 17 per cent of total goods trade between Australia and India.

International education is a flagship example of how WA is well placed to provide the services that a growing Indian economy will need. Although India is already WA’s largest market for international students, accounting for just over 20 per cent of enrolments in 2021, there is still room to grow.

It is estimated India’s tertiary-age population is the largest in the world, projected to peak at 126 million in 2026.

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As noted by the ‘An Indian Economic Strategy by 2035’ report, India aims to lift the enrolment rate in higher education from 27 per cent to 50 per cent by 2030. With our world-class universities, strong economy, the wealth of job opportunities and desirable lifestyle, WA is an attractive option for Indian students.

The University of Western Australia, Curtin University, Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University and Notre Dame University are all on this mission, as well as several TAFE colleges and StudyPerth.

The energy sector is also well represented with Woodside, Fortescue Future Industries, Rio Tinto, Roy Hill and Atlas Iron joining the delegation.

The mix of WA businesses on the mission is really interesting and should make for some engaging cross-industry conversations.

ScreenWest will be looking closely at the Indian film industry while the Geraldton Fisherman’s Co-op, Western Rock Lobster and Moss Wood winery will be exploring potential export opportunities.

The WA Government first established an investment and trade office in India in 1996. Located in Mumbai, the office has been open for more than 25 years.

During the mission, I will be opening a second Indian office in Chennai.  

The timing of this week’s WA trade and investment mission is also important.

It comes just three months after Australia signed the historic free trade agreement with India – the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement – that will make Australian exports to India cheaper and create even more opportunities for WA businesses.

Tariffs will be eliminated on more than 85 per cent of Australian goods exported to India.

The relationship between Western Australia and India is also supported by the Western Australia Andhra Pradesh Sister-State Relationship Agreement.

So this week we will start writing another important chapter in the narrative between India and Western Australia.

The government-to-government and business-to-business engagement will strengthen our economic and cultural relationship with India for decades to come.

Contributing Authors: Hon. Roger Cook MLA is Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Jobs and Trade; Tourism; Commerce; Science, Western Australia.

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