ABIE Network Webinar on Austrade Trade and Investment Priorities for Europe – 28 April 2021

Despite global foreign direct investment (FDI) plunging 42% in 2020[1], and Australia having faced the largest deficit in its history, it was a forward-looking and upbeat message that Jennifer Mackinlay, Austrade‘s Acting General Manager, Europe, delivered on April 28 at an ABIE Network webinar on Austrade’s Trade and Investment Priorities for Europe.

Hosted by ABIE France, the webinar was opened by the ABIE Network’s rotating Chair, Richard York of ABIE Czech Republic, and moderated by Catherine Woo, CEO of the Australia-UK Chamber of Commerce, a member of the ABIE Network. The discussion attracted over 100 participants from Europe and Australia, including Agent-Generals for Western Australia and Victoria, State Representatives from Queensland and South Australia, the Australian Ambassador in Poland, the German MP Volkmar Klein and the CEO of the EABC.

After a welcome by Richard York, Catherine Woo introduced the guest speaker, Jennifer Mackinlay, a former ABIE France Board member and French resident for 20 years, who is now based in London and is a Board member of the Australia-UK Chamber of Commerce.

Jennifer commenced with an overview of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic emphasising that Australia had shown enormous resilience in face of the crisis, aided by the Government’s quick introduction of a large stimulus package. Despite a rugged and challenging year that exposed the vulnerability of  global supply chains, Australia has remained “open for business and outward-facing” with Australian companies continuing to export their goods and services overseas and Australia remaining open to FDI.

To assist with the COVID-19 recovery, Austrade is helping exporters navigate new markets and remain competitive, particularly in Europe which remains one of Australia’s key markets for trade and investment. In this light, Austrade is looking at new opportunities in sectors such as hydrogen, AI, robotics, fintech, clean energy, the Internet of Things and 5G, as well as agribusiness.

Some areas of fintech, for example, have seen exponential growth during the pandemic. Jennifer explained that Australia has a growing fintech ecosystem that number more than 700 companies and that some of these companies with unique talent and niche technologies are well placed to expand into dynamic fintech markets such as the UK, France, Sweden or Poland.

Clean energy, and more specifically green hydrogen, has also become a major focus for Australia and Europe and there are real opportunities for Australia to collaborate with countries across Europe on their different hydrogen goals, whether in terms of investment or export.

Austrade will be opening an office in the Netherlands this year as the country has become an attractive landing pad for Australian companies looking for export opportunities to Europe. Amsterdam, in particular, has attracted a number of financial services and fintech companies since Brexit and has a dynamic startup scene.

Jennifer highlighted the importance and potential benefits of the two Free Trade Agreements which are currently being negotiated between Australia and the EU and the UK, in continuing the growth of Australian exporters and their businesses.

The Australian Government has also taken innovative measures to turn interest into action. Last year, a Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce was set up to attract and facilitate businesses that will make high-end investments in Australia. The focus is on advanced manufacturing, fintech and health but not limited to these sectors. Another initiative is the Global Talent Visa that will aid exceptionally talented individuals to come into Australia. “A brain gain, not a brain drain”, Jennifer quipped.

In her concluding remarks, Jennifer commented on the importance of partnerships in difficult times, noting the supportive role played by ABIE. Organisations like ABIE can help Australian companies understand how these markets work, identify profiles, first contacts etc. Within the ABIE organisations, she felt that there is a lot of talent and expertise which can be shared with these exporters through virtual or physical networking opportunities.

[1] https://bit.ly/33HAhUj

The Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) is Australia’s national trade and investment agency.

It is the national point-of-contact for investors. It helps companies around the world identify and take up investment opportunities in Australia as well as source Australian goods and services for their global supply chains.

Austrade assists foreign corporate investors to develop a business case to invest in Australia. It partners with Australian state and territory governments to provide information and contacts to appraise opportunities, to invest or expand a business in Australia.

To view the recording of the webinar, please contact abie.france@gmail.com.