Can trade steer the Indo-Pacific towards recovery?

Trade presents as a very mixed story for countries in the Indo-Pacific region – there appears to be both peril and opportunity ahead.

On the peril side – lockdowns, disrupted supply chains, security tension and travel restrictions.

What’s on the opportunity side?

Not much, but we should be optimistic.

The plunge in world trade could be bottoming out. Weak global growth could turn into moderate growth. Closed borders might soon open. And tensions around key areas of trade, technology and security (ie around China) could stop festering.

Or maybe pigs might fly?

What do you think is ahead?

Let’s build a secure Indo-Pacific but talk of war is not helping

First mission of the UK’s new mega aircraft carrier The Queen Elizabeth, was into the Indo-Pacific which is the world’s hottest region right now.

Globally the key strategic location of the world is moving this way – to the Indo Pacific region – and it is happening with some urgency.

Why?

Because of the economic success, military preparedness, activity in the region and the general rise of China.

Urgent discussions are happening among democracies and those in the region – such as India – are seeking defence support to balance things with China.

It is all happening in a rush.

India is fast tracking strategic discussions and arrangements and just completed some ground-breaking strategic deals with the UK and the European Union.

Of symbolic importance, the first mission of the UK’s new mega aircraft carrier (The Queen Elizabeth) was into the Indian Ocean.

The language of all these deals is about China – without mentioning the name. For example, most seek “an open, free, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region, underpinned by respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation and overflight in the international seas, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peaceful resolution of disputes”.

That’s a lot of words but it adds up to one word – China.

A secure region is good for us all. A region too keen to go to war is not good for us.

On the extremes of the discussions are those who eagerly await the “drums of war” – let’s just remember that these are either the same people or in the same lineage as those who took the west into disasters such as Afghanistan, Iraq and many more right back to and including the Vietnam War.

They have been wrong every time.

Can the Indo-Pacific region achieve peace without repeating these mistakes?

Adani takes giant steps towards becoming the world’s leading renewables company

Adani Group taking giant steps towards becoming the world’s largest solar power player by 2025.

Adani is taking a massive lead in India into green energy renewables.

But in Australia it is still seen as “the Indian coal company” because of its activities in Queensland – in this market the Adani reputation has taken a hit as a result.

The reality is Adani is a leader in green energy and just got a lot bigger!

Adani Green Energy Limited (AGEL), this week signed share purchase agreements for the acquisition of 100% interest in SB Energy India from SBG (80%) and Bharti Group (20%). 

SB Energy India has a total renewable portfolio of 4,954 MW spread across four states in India.

Adani is super serious about renewables – the transaction marks the largest acquisition in the renewable energy sector in India. The transaction values SB Energy India at an enterprise valuation of approximately USD 3.5 billion.

The target portfolio consists large scale utility assets with 84% solar capacity (4,180 MW), 9% wind-solar hybrid capacity (450 MW) and 7% wind capacity (324 MW).

With this acquisition, AGEL will achieve total renewable capacity of 24.3 GW (1) and operating renewable capacity of 4.9 GW.

You’ve got to hand it to Gautam Adani who has the vision to be the leader in sustainable energy transition globally and makes it one of the largest renewable energy platforms in the world.

Mr Adani created a vision in January 2020, wherein he laid out our plans to become the world’s largest solar player by 2025 and thereafter the world’s largest renewable company by 2030.

UK and India pragmatic negotiators achieve a trade and investment deal

INTO INDIA has been advocating for Australia to do what deals can be done with India, and “park” a Free Trade Agreement for later on.

The UK-India Virtual Summit has done just that.

Their newly created Enhanced Trade Partnership (bureaucratic speak for “these are the things we can agree on now) will create immediate opportunities for British businesses in India across industries including food and drink, life sciences and the service sector.

Non-tariff barriers on fruit and medical devices will be lowered, allowing British businesses to export more of their products to India and boosting UK growth and jobs. It also commits both sides to addressing immediate market access barriers as well as continuing to seek further opportunities on the road to an FTA. That is, “parking” the FTA for later on – it is just too hard to achieve.

Prime ministers Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson held their Virtual Summit this week and agreed on a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” – the first European country to gain this status.

Australian PM Morrison achieved a CSP with India in 2020 and set out collaboration across science and technology, maritime issues, defence and more.

CSP deals are a sign that India is become more outward looking and – like everyone else – concerned about the behaviour of China.

The trade and investment package unveiled by the British government contains over £533 million of new Indian investment into the UK, covering areas such as healthcare and technology.

British businesses have also secured new export deals with India worth more than £446 million, which is expected to create more than 400 British jobs.

I hope our Australian trade officials are going through all the detail to see if any deals Australia has with India can now be updated on a deal-by-deal basis.

Pat Cummins role model for how all of us can help India

Many of us in business relations with India are wondering what is the right thing to do in the midst of India suffering so much from the pandemic.

Pat Cummins has showed us what to do.

He is staying because IPL creates some joy for lockdown people – and he has made a big donation.

For business and trade the message is striking – keep in touch, build business relations and where you can, donate to support India.

Cummins has starred for the Kolkata Knight Riders so far this season.

The Australian superstar wrote on Twitter on Monday night to announce a donation in the fight against the virus, and to urge fellow cricketers to donate.

I am reproducing his entire Tweet because it is moving and inspirational:

“India is a country I’ve come to love dearly over the years and the people here are some of the warmest and kindest I’ve ever met.

“To know so many are suffering so much at this time saddens me greatly.

“There has been quite a bit of discussion over here as to whether it is appropriate for the IPL to continue while Covid-19 infection rates remain high. I’m advised that the Indian government is of the view that playing the IPL while the population is in lockdown provides a few hours of joy and respite each day at an otherwise difficult time for the country.

“As players, we are privileged to have a platform that allows us to reach millions of people that we can use for good. With that in mind, I have made a contribution to the “PM Cares Fund”, specifically to purchase oxygen supplies for India’s hospitals.

“I encourage my fellow IPL players – and anyone around else the world who has been touched by India’s passion and generosity – to contribute. I will kick it off with $50,000.

“At times like this it is easy to feel helpless. I’ve certainly felt that of late. But I hope by making this public appeal we can all channel our emotions into action that will bring light into people’s lives.

“I know my donation isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but I hope it will make a difference to someone.”

Come on India and Australia – time for an FTA to be number 1 priority

It is high time the close friendship between the PM’s Modi and Morrison led to an FTA.

It is great to see so much friendship and collaboration between India and Australia – but it is time to go to another level and have a serious shot at getting a free-trade agreement between the two countries.

Here’s 3 reasons why an FTA is now urgent:

India wants greater access to Australia’s resources.

Australia wants alternatives to China for resources and wine.

India wants investment and Australia has huge funds under management.

Patience around the FTA has been a good approach but now we have to step up the pace and get on with it.

We need some form of harvest agreements to take the heat out of agriculture – which is always a super-hot political topic in India.

Also, India seriously wants investment flows and Australia has not been forthcoming. Time for the Australian Government to lead our huge investment funds into India.

The reality is – close relations in trade mostly follow investment, and Australia has not invested heavily in India.

Wine barriers to India are huge – there is a 150% tariff – and yet wines like Orlando Jacob’s Creek have done well there.

One problem for India is they are encouraging their own wine industry, typically at the low end of the market. Perhaps they can free up tariffs on high end wine imports?

The relationship between Prime Ministers Modi and Morrison is close and could be a building block for an FTA.

Let’s put it top of the agenda!

IMF Projects India’s Growth Rate to Jump to Impressive 12.5 Per Cent in 2021

My good friend Mugunthan Siva is the CEO of India Avenue Investment Management – an India and Australia investment company – and he has advised me of great news for the Indian economy and investors.

The International Monetary Fund is now forecasting India to grow GDP at 12.5% in 2021 – the only double digit forecast amongst developed and emerging economies.

Expected global growth of 6% will also play a role in India’s growth given its incrementally increasing role in supply chains, the rise again of the IT outsourcing industry and its strength in pharmaceutical manufacture and export.

In 2022 the IMF forecasts a further 6.9% GDP growth for India – once again the leader of the pack. If India continues to grow like this the US$5tn goal of the Modi’s Government appears within reach in the next 4-5 years.

According to Mugunthan, India’s equity market is evolving nicely given the pivot post COVID. Market breadth has normalised and active managers are dominating the landscape again, as they should in an inefficient equity market like India’s. The next 3 years should see a strong recovery in corporate profit.

India to become the 3rd largest economy and “sweet spot” for investors over next decade

Indranil Sen Gupta, BofA Securities

Indranil Sen Gupta, BofA Securities, recently expressed the view that India is likely to become the 3rd largest economy over this decade. This will be driven by:
– sweetspot for the demographic dividend
– significant FX reserves to protect the economy
– 9-10% nominal GDP growth over the decade
– Low interest rates will lead to the next capex cycle, earnings growth

He said: “We see the economy growing at 9% nominal, that is 6% growth, 5% inflation, and 2% depreciation for the next two years. There are three drivers. The demographic dividend which we have all been talking about for the last 15 to 20 years is actually going to kick in from 2020 and help savings and investments. Secondly, there is financial deepening. Compare it to GDP ratio, which is around 40 to 50 per cent of GDP, should jump almost 100%. And thirdly, there is the emergence of mass markets, which the US probably saw 100 years ago. For example, the price of an entry level car today is 2.5x down from 14x 20 years ago. We think that is close to 1x on export basis.”

Read more at:
https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/indicators/india-to-be-the-third-largest-economy-in-10-years-bofa-securities/articleshow/81685020.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

USA coming to terms with India’s “longstanding relationship with Russia”

India’s decision to purchase S-400 missile systems from Russia sparked debate in the USA

INTO INDIA has often reminded readers that India has a close and long relationship with Russia – and is capable of being friends with both sides of international disputes.

Now they’re talking about this in the US.

Here’s what Admiral John Aquilino said during his confirmation hearing on Tuesday to be the next commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command or INDOPACOM: “The United States needs to understand that India has had a longstanding relationship with the Russians for security cooperation and military equipment.”

“India is really a terrific partner and as we’ve seen from the recent Quad discussions, I think the importance of India and the rest of the nations in the Quad will increase. We’re at a balance. However, India has had a longstanding relationship with the Russians for security cooperation and for military equipment,” he said.

Let’s hope the USA can also move away from the “goodies and baddies” approach to international affairs and see that it is possible to sustain healthy connections with apparently competing countries and ideologies.

Global “Indo-Pacific” strategies appear to target China

HMS Queen Elizabeth

Global “Indo-Pacific” strategies appear to target China

Here is a selected list of recent initiatives that might be designed to contain China:

  • The British Government is about to announce a foreign and defence policy review with the “new big idea” of a focus on the Indo-Pacific
  • The new UK aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and accompanying fleet will deploy in May on a maiden voyage to the Indian Ocean coordinated with the US
  • On the flight deck will be a squadron of F35 jets from the US Marine Corps, showing UK and US cooperation
  • The UK mission looks very much like a strike force, including two Type 45 destroyers, an Astute Submarine and two Type 43s
  • At the same time the recent QUAD (Japan, India, Australia, USA) meeting was the first attended by all four leaders and was strong on a free and open Indo-Pacific
  • India, Australia and Japan have an active working party examining supply chain security (code for not buying everything from China)
  • Many foreign ministries from France to Germany have recently produced Indo-Pacific strategies
  • Former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer recently said “The single most geopolitical issue in the world today is the rise of China”
  • Downer went much further in his comments: “This is an issue of war and peace.”
  • Meanwhile Australia is in the 10th month of a trade war with Beijing
  • France and Germany are also deploying large warships to the region this year
  • The UK also wants to turn the G7 into an alliance of 10 democracies by inviting South Korea, India and Australia – yet another concern for China

The Indo-Pacific packs some punch – it now accounts for close to half of global economic output and more than half the world’s population: it contains the world’s two most populous nations, China and India; the world’s second and third largest economies, China and Japan; the world’s largest democracy, India.

Add these up – and draw your own conclusions. What do you think?