Stating that huge trade and investment opportunities existed between the two nations, Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) CEO, Bruce Gosper said the time was ripe to forge a strategic partnership as Australia was the right partner for India to meet its energy and food security goals including upgradation of its infrastructure through infusion of investment, technology and collaborations.

Talking to The Hindu on his first foreign visit after taking over as CEO of Austrade, Mr. Gosper said India and Australia are already partnering in energy exploration.

``Indian companies like GVK, Gujarat NRE and the Adani group have already made huge long term investments in energy and resources in Australia. The Gorgon LNG project would start supplying 1.5 million tonne of LNG to India by 2015. Last year, coal exports to India stood at 31 million tonnes and these are bound to go up in the coming years. There is already talk of collaboration in supply of uranium between the two countries,’’ he remarked.

India is the 8 largest trading partner of Australia and there is a desire to take this economic engagement to a new level, he added.

Mr. Gosper, who took over as CEO on February 1 this year, said India’s food security concerns could be addressed by Australia as the increasing population would require more food supplies in the coming years.

``We (Australia) could chip in by catering to requirement for better agriculture products, infusion of latest technology and forge a professional partnership in giving a modern edge to agriculture in India. We have the capacity to also supply agricultural products,’’ he added.

Stating that building economic relationship with India would be part of his focussed approach, Mr. Gosper said both nations could do much better than what was the present status.

``Our companies are already engaged in building of infrastructure projects in India. We could have investments in construction sector, ports, execution of infrastructure projects through public private participation (PPP) mode. Austrade has 11 offices, the largest in Asia, in India and its effort is directed towards facilitating development of trade and collaboration between companies and governments,’’ he said.

Welcoming the various reforms including those in the financial sector, Mr. Gosper said India was recognising development bottlenecks and was resolving those issues.

``The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations are progressing well and the fifth round is scheduled to be held in May this year. The services sector will be the focus of the negotiations during this round which will be a tough nut to crack. We are hopeful of a positive outcome of these negotiations which will take the trade relationship to a new level,’’ he stated.

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