Chief Executive Officer's report
I am pleased to present this, my second annual report, as Chief Executive Officer of Austrade.
The year in review
The past year has been significant for Austrade. Since taking office, the Government has made it clear Australia is ‘open for business’, and that economic diplomacy is at the core of its international engagement. For the first time ever, we have a minister for both trade and for investment, and new senior investment specialists will join Austrade, adding to existing investment expertise and capacity. This means Austrade’s focus on providing real value to Australia’s economy through its network of 82 overseas offices in 48 markets has never been more important.
Austrade has taken on new responsibilities
During the year, Austrade contributed to a stronger economy through its core work. It has provided assistance to internationally ready firms to sustain and expand their exporting activities. Austrade has facilitated major foreign direct investment outcomes, and promoted Australian education and training internationally. In October 2013, Austrade gained responsibility for tourism policy, programmes and research from the former Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, extending its mandate to strengthening Australia’s tourism industry, in itself one of Australia’s largest export earners. Austrade is now responsible for implementing the national long-term tourism strategy, Tourism 2020, and provides policy advice to the Government to help increase Australia’s tourism market share. Austrade has also continued to provide consular and passport services in certain locations overseas.
Helping Australian businesses succeed in international markets
While the international trading atmosphere remains challenging, there are many opportunities for Australian businesses, which Austrade works hard to cultivate. Austrade has continued to provide practical advice and information directly to Australian firms or through other organisations, including state or territory governments, business groups or industry associations. In 2013–14, Austrade delivered 15,026 services to 6,608 businesses.
Attracting foreign direct investment to Australia
In 2014, Australia entered its 23rd year of uninterrupted annual economic growth. To capitalise on this impressive track record, Austrade works with state and territory governments on agreed priorities for attracting foreign direct investment to Australia. During 2013–14, Austrade significantly contributed to 72 inward investments. Austrade also organised a number of investment roundtables internationally so the Minister for Trade and Investment could meet directly with potential investors.
Promoting Australia’s credentials in international education and training
Austrade promotes Australia’s international education and training sector by positioning Australia as an international education destination and a provider of high-quality education and training services. A major achievement in 2013–14 was the Austrade-created ‘Win your Future Unlimited’ competition, focused on engaging potential students through the Future Unlimited international education brand. Education and training providers, leading corporations and the Australian Government worked together on a global digital campaign. The aim was to creatively engage potential international students who were considering an Australian education. During the seven weeks of the campaign, the competition received 37,000 entries from 172 countries.
Managing international ministerial business missions
Austrade now plays a lead role in organising the Government’s business missions, an important part of economic diplomacy. The successful Australia Week in China business mission, held in April 2014, was attended by the Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Investment and the Minister for Small Business, along with more than 700 Australian business representatives. Other missions Austrade worked on during the year included trips to Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, the United States and Canada, alongside successful programmes for the Minister for Trade and Investment in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Hong Kong. As a result, I established a central ministerial business missions unit within Austrade to manage an expanded business missions programme. This takes advantage of the unique blend of Austrade’s project management skills and understanding of government and business, along with its firm-level contacts.
New research into Australia’s international business engagement
In March 2014, Austrade, in collaboration with the Export Council of Australia, the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation and the University of Sydney, produced the Australia’s International Business Survey: 2014 report. A significant piece of economic analysis, the survey found that Australia’s international business engagement extends well beyond the export of goods. Data were gathered from 1,600 respondents, the majority of whom were planning to expand into two or more new markets in the next two years.
The survey results also provide support for Austrade’s operating model and market focus, with businesses citing lack of information about local markets, cultures, languages and business practices among the toughest barriers they face. Austrade’s insights and information on market conditions and emerging market opportunities, and its advice on local culture and regulations, along with targeted, firm-specific advice and services, will continue to help businesses and institutions.
Celebrating 80 years of economic diplomacy
Earlier in the year, Austrade celebrated 80 years of the Trade Commissioner Service through an evening I hosted at Old Parliament House in Canberra. Trade commissioners with service dating back to 1957 attended the event, as well as dignitaries from current and former governments. The night went well and highlighted the pride that Australia’s trade commissioners have in this country and in the contribution they have made to its economic prosperity.
The year ahead
The international and national economic outlook frames the environment in which Austrade operates. While the total value of global trade now exceeds the levels prior to the global financial crisis, world trade growth has remained relatively sluggish. Likewise, foreign direct investment flows have been influenced by the softer global environment. However, the data on both trade and investment flows continue to show the importance of emerging economies as economic partners for Australia, and the continued expansion of those economies offers scope for greater trade and investment growth.
In the year ahead, Austrade will continue to draw on its commercial knowledge, its international network, and its relationships and connections with international customers, investors and decision-makers, to identify valuable trade and other international business opportunities for Australian businesses and institutions. It will match international demand with Australian supply, aligning the major areas of projected global demand and growth with the areas in which Australia has a comparative advantage. It will continue to actively promote Australia as a place to invest and as a destination for tourists and international students alike. It will continue to use the tools of economic diplomacy, along with business missions, to work to increase Australia’s economic prosperity.
Austrade’s unique perspective gained from its international market presence, its economic research and analysis, its firm-level commercial knowledge, and its active partnership arrangements, will also continue to inform its policy advice to the Government on tourism and economic matters more generally in the coming year.
To streamline Austrade’s operations so that it can continue to carry out its work effectively, I have restructured reporting lines to take effect from 1 July 2014. Taking into account Austrade’s tight budget situation and the observations I have made of the organisation since I became CEO, I believe the changes will lead to stronger performance.
In conclusion, as always, I acknowledge my colleagues in Austrade and the professionalism and dedication with which they perform their duties. I would like to particularly acknowledge the contribution of Peter Yuile, Executive Director, Tourism, Education and Corporate Operations Group, who retired this year after seven years at Austrade and nearly 40 years in the Australian Public Service.
I look forward to a busy, yet fulfilling year ahead as we at Austrade work together, and with our government and industry partners, to advance Australia’s international economic interests.
Chief Executive Officer