Why did Australia-India-Japan Economic Ministers’ reach an historic agreement on a Supply Chains Resilience Program?

September 1 saw an important move by Japan bear fruit with India and Australia – the three are fast tracking supply chain cooperation and have given their bureaucrats just a few months to work out the details.

While Japan led the deal, in recent times India has growing concerns about supply chain dependence on China combined with Chinese border stoushes, while Australia is being hit by Chinese trade restrictions.

All three countries are very “China trade dependent”. They also have a vested interest in a stable Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean.

The Joint Ministerial Conference was held by video and involved Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator the Honourable Simon Birmingham, India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, His Excellency Piyush Goyal, and Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, His Excellency Kajiyama Hiroshi.

What does Supply Chain Resilience mean?

In the context of international trade, supply chain resilience is an approach that helps a country to ensure that it has diversified its supply risk across a clutch of supplying nations instead of being dependent on just one or a few – in this case, dependent on China.

Why is Japan taking the lead?

While Japan exported $135 billion worth of goods to China in 2019, it also imported $169 billion worth from the world’s second-largest economy, accounting for 24% of its total imports, according to data from tradingeconomics.com. Electrical and electronic gear, and machinery, nuclear reactors and boilers were sectors that clocked up significant imports into Japan. So, if China stops production (as it did during Covid19) then economic activity in Japan is heavily impacted.

As part of the country’s economic stimulus package, the Japanese government recently earmarked $2.2 billion to incentivise its companies to move their manufacturing out of China – much of it likely to go back to Japan.

Why was Japan keen to have India in there?

Japan is the fourth-largest investor in India with cumulative foreign direct investments touching $33.5 billion in the 2000-2020 period accounting for 7.2% of inflows in that period, according to quasi government agency India Invest.

Imports from Japan into India more than doubled over 12 years to $12.8 billion in FY19. Exports from India to the world’s third-largest economy stood at $4.9 billion that year, data from the agency showed.

What motivated Australia?

Australia, Japan and India are already part of another informal grouping, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad, which includes the U.S.

China has been Australia’s largest trading partner and that it counts for 32.6% of Australia’s exports, with iron ore, coal and gas dominating the products shipped to Asia’s largest economy. Education is the leading part of Australia’s services exports. But relations including trade ties between the two have been deteriorating for a while now – kind of a flow on from the US-China trade war.

What does India stand to gain, or lose?

While the US recently became India’s biggest trading partner, close behind is China – the two economies are close – maybe too close for India’s liking. China’s share of imports into India in 2018 (considering the top 20 items supplied by China) stood at 14.5%, according to an impact analysis by the Confederation of Indian Industry in February 2020. In areas such as Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients for medicines such as paracetamol, India is fully dependent on China. In electronics, China accounts for 45% of India’s imports, the analysis showed.

Chinese supplies dominate segments of the Indian economy. Sectors that have been impacted by supply chain issues arising out of the pandemic include pharmaceuticals, automotive parts, electronics, shipping, chemicals and textiles.

Author: Stephen Manallack

Former President, Australia India Business Council, Victoria and Author, You Can Communicate; Riding the Elephant; Soft Skills for a Flat World (published by Tata McGraw-Hill INDIA); Communicating Your Personal Brand. Director, EastWest Academy Pty Ltd and Trainer/Speaker/Mentor in Leadership, Communication and Cross Cultural Communication. Passionate campaigner for closer western relations with India. Stephen Manallack is a specialist on “Doing Business with India” and advisor/trainer on “Cross-Cultural Understanding”. He is a Director of EastWest Academy Pty Ltd which provides strategic advice and counsel regarding business relations with India. A regular speaker in India on leadership and global communication, his most recent speaking tour included a speech to students of the elite Indian university, Amity University, in Noida. He also spoke at a major Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) global summit, the PR Consultants Association of India in Delhi, the Symbiosis University in Pune and Cross-Cultural Training for Sundaram Business Services in Chennai. He has visited India on business missions on 10 occasions and led three major trade missions there. He provides cross-cultural training – Asia and the west.

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