ABIE AGM and Talk by Jason Collins, CEO of the European Australian Business Council, 29 January 2020

With 14 well-attended events, 20 new members and a healthy bank balance, ABIE can look back on a successful 2019.  And 2020 has flown off to a fast start with three events in the month of January.

The first, on January 28th, was a fund-raising auction for the victims of the Australian bushfires.  (see accompanying story.) The following morning was #BoostYourNetwork a successful speed networking event organized for the third time with Networkirlande and the Franco-British Chamber of Commerce.

The same evening ABIE members and friends were welcomed to the private residence of Ambassador Brendan Berne, ABIE’S Honorary President, for a talk by Jason Collins, CEO of the European Australian Business Council.

In his welcoming words, the Ambassador, enthused by the success of the previous evening’s auction, said the event had made him very proud.  “The terrible bushfires in Australia have brought out the best in Australia, and also the best in our French friends.

“We saw what a great relationship we have with ABIE.”

Moving on to the subject of the evening, “Unlocking the Untapped Potential”, the Ambassador said he hoped to see the French Australian Trade Agreement completed before his term in France finished. Introducing Jason Collins, who has worked tirelessly to develop European and Australian business relations, he commented on the integral role the Council was playing with MEDEF and ABIE in relation to the FTA and the interaction between Europe and Australia.

Taking the floor, Jason Collins took the audience on a statistic-packed  20 minutes resumé of Australia’s trade relationship with Europe. “My key message:  This is a relationship that has enormous potential to grow.”

He said the past 10 years had seen doubling of investment between Australian and the EU, as well as rebalancing: A decade ago it was 80% in Europe’s favour, today the proportion is 60-40 with Australia’s investment in Europe growing at a faster rate.

For European and French, investors, Jason indicated that the key sectors offering opportunities were infrastructure (Australia is on a $AUD300 billion spending spree), defence, energy, renewables and the cyber and digital sectors. Australia’s digital economy today represents 6.5% of GDP, with further massive growth expected.

Regarding defence spending, he pointed out that the Australian Government was committed to increasing defence spending to 2% of GDP, and that major contracts in this area were being signed.

There were interesting perspectives in innovation, science & research collaboration. Significant EU funding is available in this area if Australian universities work with EU counterparts.

Concluding with a word on the FTA negotiations, Jason indicated that as a bloc, the EU is Australia’s second largest trading partner, third largest export destination, and second largest services export market.

He noted that Australian consumers and companies stood to benefit from a free trade deal with the EU, through greater access to goods and services at lower prices. Australia is looking to get better access to high quality sectors of the market. Regulatory harmonization also had the potential to cut red tape, and therefore costs.

Bernard Tabary, ABIE President, thanked Jason warmly for his stimulating talk, emphasizing that ABIE would take up his message to be an advocate of the trade potential between the two countries. He then invited members and guests to enjoy the excellent Australian wines sponsored by ABIE Board member, Fréderic Calinaud of Calinaud David Avocats.