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OZ trade minister calls for ties in renewable and clean energy

By A Staff Reporter

Even as Australia persists with its stance of non-supply of uranium to fuel India’s nuclear power needs, due to “policy mismatch” between the countries, it has called for broadening of the debate to include cooperation in renewable energy and clean coal technologies within the ambit of the proposed Free Trade agreement (FTA).

This was suggested by Mr. Simon Crean, Australian Minister for Trade, while addressing the 18th India-Australia Joint Business Council, organised by FICCI here today.

Mr. Crean said: “Australia continues with its policy of not supplying uranium to countries which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and since India has no intentions to sign the treaty, there is at present a logjam.”

A smarter way, he said, was to try to build cooperation in all forms of energy except nuclear, within the ambit of the proposed FTA, for the mutual benefit of both countries.

Mr. Crean said that the four major challenges for India – food security, energy and resources security, skill development and water security were also areas of great opportunity for engagement between the Australian and India.

The Australian Minister said: “As much as the proposed FTA was a building block for deepening of the bilateral trade engagement, the groundwork for which was laid during the visit of the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, our relations should not be limited to the bilateral agenda. We need to look seriously at third country markets.”

Mr Crean said that “Trade is the economic stimulus that does not need a budget and it is an ideal foil to protectionism in any form.” He urged businesses in both countries “to join the dots” in the thrust to bilateral relations given by the respective governments.

Mr. Anand Sharma, India’s Minister for Commerce and Industry, in his address, pointed out that the Indian government was coming out will a manufacturing policy and the creation of manufacturing zones. This would open up huge opportunities for business engagement between the two sides, he said.

Responding to the observations by Mr. Rajan Bharti Mittal, President, FICCI, the minister said that as India embarks on policies to take the GDP growth to double-digit levels, it would have to commit more resources for infrastructure building so that growth could be inclusive and sustainable. “We are looking at institutional linkages and training in skills for the youth in view of the requirements of industry of people with multiple skills.”

India, he said, would need rational resources to feed its growing developmental requirements. It will need clean coal, mineral ores and precious metals, all of which Australia has in abundant measure.

Mr. Girish Tanti, Chairman, India-Australia JBC and Executive Director, Suzlon Energy, highlighted the issues that came up for discussion during today’s JBC meeting. These include, relaxation of visa norms for further enhancing the attractiveness of Australia for the Indian businesses, the imposition of the Goods & services Tax (which is a VAT of 10%)on most of the goods transaction in Australia; and the need to define market-based compensation for salaries of IT professionals working on the 457 visas (meant for temporary workers) in Australia.

FICCI is of the view that there is scope for further exploiting the potential that exists in non-traditional sectors like biotechnology, nanotechnology, urban infrastructure, green buildings, clean energy, environment, healthcare, drugs & pharmaceuticals, water management, insurance, auto components, and textiles, including industrial textiles.

Mr. Tanti said that Australia could import from India various types of machinery used in mining, LNG, energy, coal.

Mr. Brian Hayes, Chairman, Australia-India JBC, in his address, pointed out that trade ties between the two countries was just beginning to realise its potential. While the governments were giving their full support for deepening the trade engagement and moving forward to arrive at a FTA, he said it was of paramount importance to establish and strengthen people-to-people contacts at the business and trade levels.