Australia-India CEOs forum to enhance business links

By Neena Bhandari, IANS,

Canberra : An Australia-India CEOs Forum will be created to enhance business links between the two countries, ensuring that the expanding economic relationship was underpinned by closer business ties at the highest level.

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This was announced in a joint statement issued Monday following the fifth Australia-India Foreign Ministers Framework Dialogue held here.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee underlined the strength of the bilateral economic relationship, especially in the resources and energy sector.

Earlier, with India keen to import Australia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) to meet its growing energy demand, Smith had told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC): “I’m personally very keen for Australia’s liquefied national gas industry to be looking west to India just as I’m keen for all of Australia to look west to India.”

Welcoming the proposal to enhance resources cooperation by finalising the terms of a bilateral resources strategy, the ministers reiterated that the two governments were looking forward to receiving a report on the feasibility of a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement from the joint FTA study group by the end of 2008.

The ministers noted that ties were expanding into new areas such as information technology and biotechnology. Bilateral trade has been increasing with India now Australia’s sixth largest and fastest growing export market.