Mumbai: Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who is on a 4-day official visit to India, on Thursday said the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) signed between the two countries is a transformative agreement, which will unlock the next level of potential in trade and investment.

Addressing the India-Australia CEO forum in Mumbai on Thursday, Albanese expressed his sincere appreciation for the large turnout of Australian investors that came to India as well as for the key Indian business houses that participated in the event.

He added that the delegation of Australian investors is one of the most serious and high-profile ones to have visited India from Down Under.

The Australian PM also voiced optimism about the complementarities between both nations, saying that this juncture is a turning point in accelerating economic cooperation and mutual benefits in the relationship between the two countries.

Union Minister Piyush Goyal also participated in the CEO Forum along with Senator Don Farrell, minister for Trade and Tourism in the Australian government.

Goyal noted that the current goal of doubling the bilateral trade must be reset by the industries and CEOs present there as there was great potential to increase trade manifold between the two nations. He also reiterated the growth potential of the bilateral trade and investments between India and Australia.

The Union minister, from his previous visit to Australia in April 2022, recounted an example of his interaction with the CEO of Cochlear (an Australian hearing implant manufacturer). After the interaction, he reassured them that their current market share in India was only a minuscule of the potential for the business, given India's population, rapid growth in the middle class and the growing demands of the overall economy for a better lifestyle.

The Forum was organised by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, along with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in order to leverage the ever-growing trade and investment between the two countries. The forum was co-chaired by Anish Shah, MD and CEO, of Mahindra Group and Shemara Wikramnayake, MD and CEO, of Macquarie Group.

Senator Don Farrell pointed out that USD 2.5 billion worth of trade benefitted from the lower tariffs arising from the ECTA agreement in Jan 2023 alone and reassured that this growth will continue to rise further. He urged the industry to think much bigger to satiate the demands of the growing relationship.

Both ministers welcomed the convening of the India-Australia CEO Forum and encouraged businesses on both sides to explore emerging economic and investment opportunities.

The ministers also expressed satisfaction at the progress of bilateral engagements and affirmed their commitment to further deepen and strengthen the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for mutual benefit.

A four-year extension MoU was also signed between the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Business Council of Australia in the presence of Albanese. This partnership is tipped to go a long way in furthering the business relationship between the two countries.

The event also saw the participation from CEOs of leading companies from India and Australia across the sectors like metals and mining, telecom, food processing, education, pharmaceutical, healthcare, medical devices, banking, aviation, education, IT, auto and institutional investors.

The forum participants discussed 'How to enhance Economic, Trade and Investment relations between India and Australia, across sectors'.

The two countries have a long-standing relationship, characterised by shared values of democracy, multiculturism, economic opportunities and most importantly vibrant diaspora with strong people-to-people links. Both countries value free and open societies, respect for human rights, and the rule of law.

In the fiscal year 2022, India was Australia's 9th largest trading partner. Major exports to Australia include petroleum products, textiles and apparel, engineering goods, leather, pearls, mechanical appliances, iron and steel and gems and jewellery. Major imports include edibles, dyeing extracts, chemicals, wool, minerals and precious stones.