Australian PM seeks to diversify trade, investment on India visit

FILE PHOTO: Anthony Albanese, Australia's Prime Minister

By Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Tuesday his government wants to diversify trade and foreign investment partners, as he prepares to lead a business delegation to India which he said shares Australia's democratic values.

Australia wanted "greater diversity in who we trade with - and greater variety in what we trade, meaning our economy is more resilient and more secure," he said in a speech to the AFR Business Summit in Sydney.

China is easily Australia's largest trading partner, although a diplomatic dispute has resulted in what Australia calls "trade blockages" being imposed by China on a raft of Australia's exports. Canberra has asked Beijing to remove those blockages as the two nations resume talks after a years-long diplomatic freeze.

Business leaders across transport, resources, finance, higher education, architecture and energy will on Wednesday accompany Albanese to India, which is Australia's sixth largest trading partner.

The delegation includes Macquarie Group Chief Executive Shemara Wikramanayake, Commonwealth Bank of Australia Chief Executive Matt Comyn, Fortescue Metals Group founder Andrew Forrest, Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson, and executives from BHP, Rio Tinto and Graincorp.

India and Australia are security partners through the Quad group, which also includes the United States and Japan and frequently highlights democracy as a basis for cooperation.

"Our two nations share a rich history - bound by our democratic values and enlivened by genuine friendship and fierce sporting rivalry," Albanese said.

Australia would supply critical minerals to India, while also making electric vehicle components such as batteries and other green energy products in Australia, he said.

"We can do all these things as well as remaining a trusted and reliable supplier of energy to key trading partners such as Japan and the Republic of Korea," he added.

Albanese said Australia would be "deepening and diversifying our international investment and trade links".

Australia is the largest supplier of iron ore to China, but is seeking to diversify its customers for critical minerals and last month blocked a Chinese investment in a rare earths miner on national interest grounds.

In response to questions about China, Albanese said the relationship was "more stable", and his government had sought a return to diplomacy while recognising differences in values and political systems.

"We want a more stable, secure region," he said.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Stephen Coates)