Cables from post: Dispatches from Australia’s global diplomatic network

3 April 2017

From Mumbai: India’s Davos

The Vibrant Gujarat Summit and Trade Show 2017 in mid-January delivered Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his home state Gujarat a mix of international political and business leaders, including nearly all of India's major corporate leaders, senior government officials, largest foreign investors and over two million visitors. The biennial event reaffirmed its status as ‘India's Davos’ with the Gujarat Government announcing 25 578 agreements were signed this year, including billion dollar commitments to establish an aerospace and defence cluster, a steel plant and new industrial parks. As a partner country, Australia held a successful Country Seminar which boosted the profiles of Austrade, the Australia-India Council and the Australia-India Business Council.

Australia's engagement as a partner country for the second time running and New South Wales’ participation to further Gujarat-NSW sister state ties were widely appreciated. The Australian Consulate-General in Mumbai is responsible for Australia’s relations with Gujarat and expects the next Vibrant Gujarat in 2019 may be an even larger event ahead of Indian national elections that year. Interested Australian businesses and investors are invited read Austrade’ s Gujarat Market Summary and contact Austrade (in Ahmedabad) on 132878 or info@austrade.gov.au.

From Bandar Seri Begawan: Education a central pillar of relationship

Education links form a core component of our bilateral relations with Brunei. Australia is the second largest destination for Brunei students studying overseas, resulting in a sizeable and influential alumni cohort. Although the overall number of Bruneians studying in Australia is small by comparative standards, at around 400 it is significant in terms of Brunei's total population of around 330 000. Interest in studying in Australia is high with more than 400 people attending the Australian High Commission’s annual Australian Future Unlimited Education Information Day in February. The event was timed to coincide with the Brunei Ministry of Education's Higher Education Expo 2017 where Australia was joined by institutes from the United Kingdom, Japan and Malaysia.

Several Australian universities enjoy relationships with the University of Brunei Darussalam and University of Technology Brunei (UTB) which enable students to complete half their degree in Australia – see UTB’s arrangement with UNSW in Chemical Engineering for example. Following expressions of interest, the High Commission is exploring opportunities for cooperation between Australian and Bruneian institutions in the fields of specialist medicine, biodiversity and defence policy. Read Austrade’s Education Market Profile – Brunei and contact Austrade at Josie.Abdullah@austrade.gov.au for more information.

From Ottawa: Alighting the sparks of innovation

In mid-2016 the Canadian Government launched its "Innovation Agenda" to identify priority actions to spur innovation. After 180 days of consultations involving leaders representing Canadian society and 120,000 engagements with the public through visits, emails, tweets and phone calls, 1752 ideas were categorised into six areas of action: entrepreneurial and creative society, global science excellence, world-leading clusters and partnerships, accelerating clean growth, competing in a digital world and ease of doing business. Areas of international interest include support for innovation partnerships or “clusters”, expanded investment promotion and measures to improve labour mobility. Canada wants to develop “super clusters” that bring together Canadian partners with businesses, research institutions and governments to create hotbeds of innovation and to accelerate the commercialisation of ideas. The Government will also ramp-up its investment promotional arm, announcing in December funding of C$218 million over five years to create a new federal body, the ‘Invest in Canada Hub’, by the end of the year. It will also increase the number of trade commissioners focused on investment attraction in strategic markets. Human capital and skills development will also get a boost with the government seeking to make it easier for international talent to engage with Canadian companies. A new work permit exemption for short-duration work terms (fewer than 30 days) will facilitate short-term, inter-company work exchanges, study exchanges, or the entrance of temporary expertise. The government is also considering an ambitious two-week standard for processing visas and work permits under its Global Skills Strategy announced in the Fall Economic Statement.

From Port Vila: A close trade and investment partnership

The Australian High Commission in Port Vila attended Prime Minister Charlot Salwai’s January 2017 launch of the Vanuatu 2030 – the People’s Plan vision for achieving a stable, sustainable and prosperous Vanuatu within the next 15 years. As Vanuatu’s largest bilateral aid donor, Australia is a committed partner in making a difference to the lives of people in Vanuatu. Australia’s trade and investment ties with Vanuatu are also strong. Australia is the source country for two-thirds of long stay tourists and almost all cruise ship passengers, helping to bolster the tourism sector which accounts for approximately 40 percent of GDP and one third of formal sector employment. According to Pacific Trade and Invest (the Pacific’s Austrade equivalent), most tourism businesses are family run and a major source of employment for women and youth. Vanuatu is one of the largest source countries under Australia’s Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP). The SWP provides much needed seasonal labour for Australian businesses and is a significant source of remittances for Vanuatu.

Australia is also Vanuatu’s largest source of foreign investment. Australian companies in Vanuatu are active in diverse fields such as hospitality, training and education services, building and construction and food and wine products.  Australia and New Zealand are currently negotiating the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus with Vanuatu and 12 other Pacific Islands Forum countries.  The primary objective of PACER Plus is to promote the economic development of Forum Island Countries through greater regional trade and economic integration. The Australian High Commission in Vanuatu also recently provided assistance to the Ministry of Tourism, Trade, Commerce and Ni-Vanuatu Business to second an officer to the role of Vanuatu Trade Commissioner to the Australian office of Pacific Trade and Invest in Sydney. As a result, four businesses from Vanuatu were invited to showcase their products as part of the Pacific Trade and Invest stand at the trade-only expo Fine Food Australia in Melbourne, gaining valuable international exposure and expanding their potential buyer networks. International investors were also represented at the Australia Vanuatu Business Forum, held in Post Vila in February.

From Chennai: A wealth of opportunities for market-ready tech start-ups and R&D centres

Southern India – one of the world’s most dynamic tech industry growth centres – offers a wealth of opportunities for Australian innovators and market-ready start-ups that are interested in collaborating with Indian counterparts. A range of incubators across the region’s main technology centres, including Bangalore and Hyderabad are keen to establish collaborative relationships with Australian incubators and accelerators and are willing to offer ‘landing pad’-like facilities to Australian start-ups, enabling them to focus on India’s lucrative market and helping them navigate some of its complexities. The largest of these, T-Hub Hyderabad, the brainchild of the Telangana Minister for Information Technology, Industry and Commerce, K T Rama Rao, was established 12 months ago as a not-for-profit collaboration between the government of Telangana, three well-known Indian academic institutes and the private sector. It has the capacity to host around 220 start-ups at its 770-seat facility at the Indian Institute for Information Technology, Hyderabad and focuses on FinTech, HealthTech, AgriTech, Smart City, Sustainability, Social Impact, and Aviation and Logistics. The Australian Consulate-General in Chennai is encouraging Australian incubators/accelerators, innovators and start-ups to consider these opportunities, with collaboration in the fields on HealthTech, Agritech and water-related sustainability technology, of greatest interest. T-Hub is also seeking to establish an international exchange partnership program, following a successful US-Indian model, involving two to three week visits by groups of around ten market-ready start-ups to understand markets and develop contacts.  For more information contact Sophie Smith at the Australian-Consulate General in Chennai.

Austrade is reaching out to Indian IT companies and venture funds (eg: Infosys Innovation Fund, Wipro Ventures, Tech Mahindra Growth Factories Fund, and Reliance GenTech Ventures), and working with foreign multinational corporations in-house research centres based in India (eg: AirBus/GE/ABB) to support funding of Australian start-ups and commercialisation of Australian innovation.

Austrade are also seeing opportunities to leverage mature Australian technology to support addressing challenges faced by India’s rapid growth. These are primarily in the areas of: Smart Cities; Water management; Agricultural practices improvement; Road Safety; and METS.

From Jakarta: ‘Truly Aussie’ Year of Australian Lifestyle

Australia as a ‘Lifestyle Superpower’ is the focus of the Australian Embassy in Indonesia’s 2017 year-long public diplomacy campaign Year of Australian Lifestyle in Indonesia. The campaign, which uses the hashtag #AussieBanget or ‘Truly Aussie’, kicked off on 31 January with ‘film’ as the first of the year’s monthly themes. Now in its second year, the Embassy’s Festival Sinema Australia Indonesia 2017was oversubscribed at all venues including two new locations, demonstrating a growing appetite among Indonesian audiences for high quality Australian films. In February, #AussieBanget’s focus on ‘design’ coincided with Australian designer Jamie Sortino receiving the highest design accolade of opening Indonesian Fashion Week 2017. Over the rest of the year the campaign will highlight Australia’s world class business and education sectors; promote Australia as an investment, learning and tourism destination; showcase Australia’s capabilities in science, research, innovation and technology; profile Australia’s creative industries; and highlight Australia’s approach to diversity and religious tolerance. Follow @DubesAustralia on Twitter and #AussieBanget to find out about new events.

The Australian Embassy would welcome your involvement with the #AussieBanget campaign.  For further details please contact the Advocacy and Outreach Section at cultural.jakarta@dfat.gov.au

From Vientiane: Improving the business environment

Prime Minister Thongloun has undertaken publicly to improve Laos’ ranking on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business to less than 100. It is currently idling at 139, one of the lowest in the region. The Lao National Assembly recently endorsed a revised version of the 2009 Investment Promotion Law as a signal to prospective foreign investors that Laos is making efforts to improve its business operating environment. Discussions in parliament focused on more generous tax incentives for foreign investors, changes to land use and allocation via a reduction in land concessions from 99 years to 50 years, and structural changes to streamline the process by which investors seek to enter and operate in the Lao market. Australian business in Laos has told the Australian Embassy in Laos it welcomes a number of positive changes in the law. Australia supported the revision of the law through the Mekong Business Initiative – an advisory and advocacy facility to promote business environment reforms in the Greater Mekong Sub-region managed by the Asian Development Bank and funded by the Australian aid program. Australia is one of the Lao PDR’s main development partners with Australia’s programs focusing on trade and business reform, education and human resource development. This year marks the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Laos and Australia. Laos’ relationship with Australia is the country’s longest unbroken diplomatic relationship at Ambassadorial level. Read more in DFAT’s Laos Country Brief and Austrade’s Export Market - Laos webpage.

From Oman: Positive feedback from alumni

Omani alumni of Australian universities number over 850 including current students, according to the Omani Minister for Education. The Australian Embassy in Riyadh, which has formal accreditation to Oman, has received positive feedback, with graduates reporting they are very satisfied with the standard of education and pastoral care provided by Australian institutions. The lower Australian dollar has made the cost of living noticeably more affordable for Omani students, and the new visa system has made applying for student visas easier and faster. The Australian Government is highlighting opportunities in education in Oman and other MENA (Middle East and North Africa) countries through events such as the MENA Connection Seminars held each November. Austrade’s Oman Education Market Profile and Market Dashboard showing student enrolments, fields of education and visa grants for Oman can be found here (note access to the Market Information Package is via paid subscription). For more information contact Austrade Regional Education Manager Ismail Farag (in Riyadh) at Ismail.Farag@austrade.gov.au or telephone +966 11 2816176.

See caption below.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop with (L-R) Professor Ki Jeong Lee, Vice President, Office of International Affairs, Hanyang University, Australian Ambassador to Korea, James Choi and 2016 NCP Korea Scholar Xavier Ekkel at the New Colombo Plan (NCP) Internship and Mentorship Network launch in Korea, 18 February 2017.

From Seoul: Aussie students say “Annyeong Haseyo!”

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop launched the New Colombo Plan Internship and Mentorship Network in the Republic of Korea during a visit to deepen business and strategic links in February. The NCP Internship and Mentorship Network  provides internships and mentorships for Australian students in the Indo-Pacific to test their skills in real life situations, build cross-cultural competencies and develop professional networks to complement their formal studies under the program. As a registered NCP Internship and Mentorship Network member, private-sector organisations can access a diverse talent pool and support students in obtaining professional experience in the region. At the end of the year, more than 540 Australian undergraduate NCP students will have studied and undertaken work-basedplacements in Korea under the program. To learn more about how your business can get involved, visit the New Colombo Plan Internship and Mentorship webpage.

Last Updated: 3 April 2017