Australian Trade commission
Interview to Consol General Mrs Anna Fedeles
by Barbara Ganetti
Your Excellency the Consul General, how long have You been covering Your diplomatic role in Italy, and what is Your experience of it?
I arrived in late December, only a few weeks ago, but I have had the pleasure of working alongside Italian companies investing in Australia for over a decade.
Can you tell us when the Australian Trade Commission was established and which are its functions?
Established under the Australian Trade Commission Act 1985, the Australian Trade Commission operates as a sta-tutory agency within the portfolio of Foreign Affairs and Trade, with Austrade’s Chief Executive Officer reporting directly to the Minister for Trade and Investment. Austrade contributes to Australia’s economic prosperity by helping Australian companies to grow their business in in-ternational markets; providing coordinated government as-sistance to promote, attract and facilitate productive foreign direct investment into Australia; developing policy, ma-naging programmes and providing research to strengthen Australia’s tourism industry; and through Brand Australia, promote awareness of contemporary Australian skills and capability to enrich Australia’s global reputation.
In designated overseas locations, such as Milan, Austrade also delivers Australian consular, passport and other government services.
Which opportunities are presently available for Italian investments in Australia are the more interesting sectors?
Infrastructure and engineering: Australia’s growing and resilient economy, increasing population and trade provide multiple opportunities to finance, build, own and operate infrastructure. Opportunities exist for investors who bring state-of-the-art technologies and construction expertise to new projects, upgrading existing infrastructure and inve-sting across all stages of the asset life-cycle.
Food and agriculture: significant opportunities exist in advanced food processing and research, beef, grains, dairy, aquaculture and horticulture. Australia remains a net exporter of food. In fact exports valued at A$21.9 million in 2013/14, up 13.5% over the previous year. Australia’s trade surplus for the food and beverage sector has been growing at approximately 9% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) over the four years to 2013/14, mainly due to accelerating exports. The 2013/14 trade surplus in food and beverage products was A$8.6 billion.
Many investors recognise the opportunities offered by Au-stralia’s clean and green primary production sector, rigo-rous food safety and quality systems to produce premium products. Australia’s advantageous free trade access to consumers in fast developing economies in the region re-presents a significant prospect – particularly as exporting infrastructure lends itself to flexible, just-in-time supply chains for customers. Italian pasta, bread and pastry ma-kers show great interest in Australia: the dry and clean en-vironment ensures its grains are of highest quality – it is the world’s only 100% white wheat producer. Grain producers continue to make impressive productivity gains, supported by world class research and development (R&D). Advanced materials: Australia has advanced research and innovation capabilities in niche areas of advanced manu-facturing and a proven track record in developing materials.
science and technology solutions, including in:
• Composites research, including carbon fibres for aerospace, automotive and industrial
• light metals, such as titanium, processing inclu-ding additive manufacturing
• bio-products for medical and industrial use, inclu-ding through nanotechnology
• electronic and photonic materials, such as for bat-teries and energy storage
Australia offers world-class research infrastructure, a strong but flexible regulatory regime including (IP) protection, tax incentives and a supportive bu-siness culture for undertaking research and deve-lopment (R&D). Digital technologies: Australia has an expanding, multi-faceted digital economy with e-ready government, industries and consumers and an accomplished and innovative ICT R&D sector. Strong opportunities exist, particularly in advanced ICT R&D, digital infrastructure and the develop-ment of remote automation, simulation and visuali-sation technologies.
Can you describe more deeply your function in the organization and development of the busi-ness missions towards Australia?
Austrade works closely with Italian companies, interested in establishing a business in Australia through direct investment, and in these cases pro-grams are very focused and tailored to the specific investment project. Commonly this involves a few senior executives from one firm travelling to mul-tiple cities in Australia, where Austrade will offer a centralised coordination point across the eight sta-te and territory governments, scheduling meetings with government and industry bodies, as well as potential business and consultancy partners. This service can offer an invaluable introduction to the Australian investment market and assists Italian companies to build their networks quickly.
Which are the advantages for an Italian company in extending its market towards the Australia when he considers the association to the Australian Trade Commission?
Australia provides a safe, easy, low-risk environ-ment in which to invest and do business. Austra-lia’s diversified and services-based economy is the world’s 13th largest and is entering its 24th year of uninterrupted growth. As a result of high levels of investment, generous R&D tax incentives for busi-nesses and strong intellectual property protection, billions of people around the world rely on Austra-lian discoveries, such as Google Maps, high-speed WiFi, sprayon skin for burns victims, the bionic eye, cervical cancer vaccine, ultrasound technolo-gy, cochlear implants and civilian use of penicillin. The Australian labour force of 12.4 million peo-ple is one of the most educated, multicultural and multilingual in the world. They are expected to outperform many other developed countries for la-bour productivity growth in terms of GDP per per-son employed, and more than quarter of them were born overseas, bringing their linguistic and cultural understanding to companies operating out of Au-stralia. In fact Australia is geographically close to and has longstanding trade and investment links with the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region. Austra-lia’s extensive network of Free Trade Agreements, including Korea, Japan, China and the US, provide significant advantages to those exporting Australian content and our cultural connections mean many European companies find entering Asian markets via their Australian operations much easier than going direct. Doing business in Australia is easier than in most other countries. To start a business in Australia there are three procedures, taking an ave-rage of 2.5 days in total. With one of the most tran-sparent and well-regulated business environments in the world, Australia’s political stability and regu-latory framework provides investors with confiden-ce and security.
To conclude, we want to thank You for Your availability. I would like to ask You what do You think of Italy in this moment of economical crisis in Europe?
While the European economic crisis has been diffi-cult for many companies, these periods also create an opportunity to revolutionise business culture. For instance, some companies that previously only pursued domestic or European business, might now consider the importance of internationalisation and broader market diversification. Forward-thinking Italian firms are increasingly seeking commercial opportunities beyond the borders of Europe.
The partnerships and knowledge sharing that result from this desire to internationalise will not only benefit the new markets where Italian companies choose to invest, but will bring new ideas, efficien-cies and technologies back into Italy as well. It is an exciting time for Italian firms, as challenge also creates opportunity. Australia is eager to partner with Italy to help realise our potential together.