The government’s India Economic Strategy launched in 2018 to encourage $100 billion of Australian investment in India over two decades.
“There is an enormous way to go from a base that is unsatisfactory at the moment,” Mr Ferguson said, adding the trip would help address a “perception” issue that had affected business activity in India.
Currently, India is Australia’s fifth largest export destination for goods and services, jumping 10.1 per cent to $22.3 billion over 2018, latest data from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade shows. When considering two-way trade the market was valued at $30.3 billion.
China is Australia’s biggest export and import partner and consumed $136.3 billion worth of Australian goods and services in 2018, followed by Japan at $58.8 billion, Korea at $266 billion and the US at $23.1 billion.
The impact of the coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan on Australia’s economy is still being determined but Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has warned it will be “significant” and some economists are warning Australia has become too reliant on China, leaving the country vulnerable to shockwaves.
India’s economy slowed in 2019 but Mr Ferguson said this was likely because it was an election year and new stability, a surging population and a growing middle class would help future economic growth.
A possible “bilateral trade agreement in the making” between India and Australia could also bolster exports, he said.
Senator Birmingham said the trip, which includes companies like Saputo Dairy, Swisse, Taylors Wines and Linfox, was part of ensuring Australian businesses were placed “front and centre” to take advantage of India’s expected economic growth through exports.
“This will be an important opportunity for Australian businesses looking to pursue greater export and investment opportunities to better understand how to do business in India and to form relationships with Indian industry and government leaders,” he said.
A briefing note from India’s Ministry of External Affairs in early-February referred to ongoing discussions about an economic cooperation agreement and noted Australia recognised the “growing economic profile and commercial relevance” of India.
“The prospects for bilateral relationship are recognised in both countries as strategically useful, economically productive and aligned with each other’s new agenda,” the note says.
Senator Birmingham is also planning to promote Australia as a holiday destination as strict travel bans on Chinese visitors to mitigate the risk of coronavirus continue to weigh on the local tourism industry. He will also host an aviation roundtable focused on improving flight connectivity over the next 10 years.
“Getting the message out there that Australia is open for business and that our tourism businesses want Indian tourists to visit will also be a major focus,” he said, adding the Women’s T20 Cricket World Cup and upcoming men’s tournament would be among the highlights he would be promoting.
Jennifer Duke is an economics correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra.