South Australia eyes India for trade ties

Melbourne: South Australia government is keen to enhance economic ties with India and has placed the country on top of the list of future trade partners.

"The state must have a clear strategy to take advantage of emerging trade opportunities with India," Premier Jay Weatherill said monday as he launched a South Australia-India economic development directions paper ahead of a visit this week by a delegation of Indian investors.

"India is expected to become the world`s third-largest economy within 20 years and is going to be a very significant part of our economic growth in the long term," Weatherill was quoted as saying by Australian news agency APP.

"While our trade, education and cultural ties provide a strong foundation, we need a more broadly-based alliance across many sectors of our state`s economy," he said.

Manufacturing Minister Tom Koutsantonis said Indian investors, business operators, skilled migrants, students and tourists were already discovering opportunities in South Australia. India was already the state`s fourth largest export market.

"Australia and India share many common bonds, including a Commonwealth background, a common business language and a passion for cricket," Koutsantonis said, adding that the state government wants to build on these common interests to maximise the potential investment Indian companies can provide in South Australia.

The government said its engagement strategy for India would align business and government activity to benefit both South Australian and Indian people.

"Our strategy will include a clear set of targets and aims for trade, investment and business migration, identifying where we want to be in our relationship with India over the coming years and how we intend to get there," Koutsantonis said.

The paper has listed five target regions in India which share similar interests to SA and advocates expansion of non-resources trade to harness the state`s burgeoning "knowledge-rich economy".

The regions include Maharashtra, which takes in Mumbai and has a gross regional product more than double that of SA, and the motor car producing province of Tamil Nadu.

The paper has pinpointed the Federal Government`s decision to sell uranium to India should lay the foundation for "an even deeper long-term partnership" including renewed focus on the growing Indian middle class has been seen as a ripe target for SA`s wine and food industries and international student education sector.

Weatherill said China remained important to the state`s economic future but the rest of Asia was expected to achieve rapid growth in the coming decades.

"India is at the top of the list of the partners that can contribute most to South Australia," he said.

"While our trade, education and cultural ties provide a strong foundation, we need a more broadly based alliance across many sectors of our state`s economy," Weatherill said.

Opposition industry spokesman Steven Marshall said the state`s foreign economic policy was "in disarray" and two of its eight trade offices – in Vietnam and Chile – were unstaffed.

"SA`s priorities haven`t been right for a very long time," he said.

Business South Australia acting chief executive Brett Mahoney said India presented a big opportunity but a was "very difficult place to do business if you don`t have the contacts".

A visiting Indian delegation this week will hold talks on mining, energy and information technology as well as attend the Test, beginning tomorrow at Adelaide Oval.

The trade paper has been released for discussion and strategies will be developed following consultation with officials and business leaders in both jurisdictions.