Education deal with India as Australia seeks trade boom

Albanese meets Modi in India

Jammed between festival celebrations and a trip to watch the cricket, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s key priority during his visit to India this week is clear – sparking a trade boom with the South Asian nation.

Education has emerged as an early focus, with the PM unveiling plans to open up Australia to Indian graduates.

Emerging industries are also featuring, particularly the rapidly growing renewables sector.

Overnight Thursday, Mr Albanese promoted closer defence ties with India by declaring it a “top tier” defence partner.

During a landmark visit to India’s flagship carrier INS Vikrant, the ABC reports Mr Albanese said Indian forces would join the Talisman Sabre war games in Australia this year.

He also confirmed Australia would host this year’s Operation Malabar naval exercises with the United States, India and Japan.

Mr Albanese’s whirlwind schedule, which will see him visit three cities in almost as many days, is part of an effort to add billions to trade with India, which historically has been seen as an intensely protectionist nation.

Experts suggest that is changing and Australia is keen to be among the first to build stronger economic ties, with Mr Albanese and a group of business leaders focusing on trade across dozens of sectors.

“I’m looking forward to an upgrade in the economic relationship,” Mr Albanese told reporters from Gujarat in the country’s west on Thursday.

“Already this morning, I’ve met with 34 smart energy companies who are here from Australia, providing significant investment, seizing the opportunity that is there.”

Education headlines

Australia’s ambition for building trade with India really kicked into gear last year after an interim free trade deal was signed that signalled a winding back of tariffs on wine, agriculture and minerals like coal.

At the time then Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined a 10-year plan to make India become Australia’s third largest trading partner, which implied adding more than $18 billion a year in two-way trade between both countries.

It was seen as an alternative to China, amid fast souring relations.

The relationship is valued about $24 billion a year, which is much smaller than the $246 billion China trade relationship.

Griffith University professor Ian Hall doesn’t think India trade will reach the heights of China because India lacks the same insatiable demand for iron ore.

“Our economies are not as complementary as Australia’s was with China during the last 20 years or so,” Dr Hall told The New Daily.

However, Dr Hall said there are big opportunities in other industries, particularly education exports – already valued at $6 billion annually.

Australia’s focus on education was evident on Wednesday night when Mr Albanese unveiled plans to allow qualifications to be recognised between both nations, opening the door to Indian students working here.

It was followed by Deakin University revealing plans to build a teaching campus in India, the first of its kind. This will further open the door to Indian students obtaining Australian qualifications and studying here.

“It is the most comprehensive and ambitious arrangement agreed to by India with any country,” said Mr Albanese of the qualification sharing.

“It paves the way for commercial opportunities for Australian education providers to offer innovative and more accessible education.

“And it provides a solid basis for our tertiary institutions to consider new ways of partnering with each other.”

Minerals and wine

Dr Hall said there are trade opportunities beyond education.

He cited wine in particular, which “Indians are consuming in ever greater quantities”.

“India holds promise for exporters looking for new markets and aiming to diversify away from ones that have become more difficult to access,” Dr Hall said.

The federal government has also stated mineral exports could lead to increasing trade with India.

Coal is Australia’s largest annual export to India, valued at $7 billion a year, but Resources Minister Madeleine King, also in India with Mr Albanese, has cited lithium exports as a product that could take trade to new heights.

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