Malcolm Turnbull looks to booming India as a home for Australian super funds
London: Australian savings could be poured into major Indian projects under plans aired by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi as the two leaders take another step to tighten ties between the two countries.
The two leaders canvassed the investment idea as part of a formal meeting in London that held out the promise of a limited trade and investment deal after years of slow progress on an agreement.
The troubled Adani coal mine continues to raise anxieties in Australia’s relationship with India, but the project was not raised in the leadership talks, with the focus on investment from superannuation and other big funds.
Mr Turnbull emerged from the first day of the Commonwealth summit in London to claim an “enthusiasm” for more free trade between the member countries including the United Kingdom after it completes its split from the European Union.
“I didn’t see any protectionism around the table today, which is encouraging,” Mr Turnbull said.
At a time of tension between Australia and China, the meeting in London sets up a series of meetings that can cement Australian relationships with the United Kingdom, India and the Pacific Islands.
Mr Modi made a commitment with British Prime Minister Theresa May two days ago to start talks on a trade agreement, adding another nation to the United Kingdom’s list of closer allies after it leaves the EU.
Australia has discussed a free trade agreement with India for several years but concerns about the impact on Indian farmers have slowed the work to a crawl, turning attention to a limited deal on services and investment.
Mr Modi and Mr Turnbull canvassed the idea of encouraging Australian superannuation funds to invest in Indian infrastructure to add to a $2 billion fund set up by Macquarie with the State Bank of India in 2009.
The idea is similar to a message from Mr Turnbull and several super fund bosses to US political leaders in February, when IFM Investors chief Brett Himbury and others accompanied the Prime Minister on a visit to Washington DC.
The discussions with Mr Modi also canvassed the options for trade deals across the region, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that might one day include China as well as India.
The RCEP is seen as a sweeping agreement over the long term compared to the recent signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership, which has 11 members including Australia but does not include India, China or the United States.
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