Investment specialists, USA


Nicola Watkinson - Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner USA/Canada

Nicola Watkinson

Tel: +1 646 344 8120

Prior to her arrival in the United States in August 2016, Nicola was responsible for developing Trade, Investment and Education links between Australia and South Asia with a team of over 50 staff in 16 offices across India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

After a career in the private sector in the UK and with the Victorian Government in Melbourne, Nicola joined Austrade in 2003. Nicola’s career in Austrade spans Consul General Frankfurt, Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, West Europe, Global Head of Investment and Senior Investment Commissioner for Europe, Middle East and Africa. She has also worked in North Asian markets with a particular focus on Japan, China and Korea. Nicola has sat on the advisory board of groups such as CSIRO (Australia’s premier research organisation), Industry Capability Network, Australia China Business Council and Australian Business in Europe.

Find out more about investing in Australia.

Gareth Simpson - Trade and Investment Commissioner, New York

Gareth Simpson

Tel: +1 646 344 8123

Gareth Simpson joined the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) in April 2016 as Trade and Investment Commissioner and Post Manager, New York. From his base in New York he oversees Austrade's work in the North Eastern United States and leads the teams responsible for investment attraction and trade support in the high potential sectors of medtech and life sciences and fintech and blockchain across the United States and Canada.

Prior to joining Austrade, Gareth served as an Adviser to the Hon Andrew Robb AO MP, Minister for Trade and Investment, advising on policy, negotiations and legislation in investment, trade, tourism and international education. In this role he provided advice and liaised with business, government and community stakeholders regarding key policy objectives, including the conclusion of free trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea, the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, the delivery of large-scale business missions, international education strategy and developing Northern Australia. Gareth was also an Adviser in the Coalition opposition from 2011 to 2013 and was part of the policy unit during the successful 2013 Coalition election campaign. Gareth has worked for the Australian Federal Government, as a Policy Advisor at the Department of Finance, and in the private sector, as an Executive Search Consultant at ANZ and a Recruitment Consultant at Hays.

Gareth holds Bachelors of Arts and Commerce from the University of Melbourne and a Master’s in Public Policy (Economic) from the Crawford School at the Australian National University. He lives in Chelsea, New York, with his wife Kristina, son Frederic, and terrier Ellie.

Chris Knepler - Investment Commissioner, Chicago

Chris Knepler

Tel: +1 312 374 9401

Chris manages Midwest operations for the Australian Trade and Investment Commission and works to deepen and broaden Australia-U.S. economic relationships in the region. Priority sectors include agribusiness and food processing, advanced manufacturing, medical devices and education.

Chris joined Austrade New York in 2003 and has since worked on a variety of strategic projects in the United States, Australia and Brazil. These include leading the Latin American technology team from Sao Paulo and the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) export advisor team in Sydney.

Chris has a decade of marketing, strategy and international business development experience in the telecommunications industry, including with Motorola, Ameritech and Deutsche Telecom. He has also been on the management team of two New York City-based, venture-backed technology start-ups. Chris has lived and worked in Hungary, France, Indonesia, Australia and Brazil.

Chris holds a Master of Business Administration (Management of Technology) from the University of California at Berkeley.

Peter McGauran - Consul-General and Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, Houston

Peter McGauran

Tel: +1 832 962 8432

The Honourable Peter McGauran is Australia’s Consul-General and Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner to Houston, Texas.

Mr McGauran took up the position in January 2018 after a distinguished career in both the public and private sectors in Australia.

Mr McGauran served 25 years in the Australian Parliament between 1984 and 2008 including as a Cabinet Minister and over 10 years as a Minister in several Departments including the portfolios of Agriculture, Industry, Communications and Immigration.

As Minister for Agriculture, Mr McGauran was a strong proponent of free and fair trade and was instrumental in negotiation of the initial stages of Free Trade Agreements with China, Japan and Korea. Mr McGauran also chaired the Cairns Group of agricultural countries, including the United States, at a crucial period and drove commitments to break down artificial barriers to trade.

On his retirement from Federal Parliament, Mr McGauran became CEO of Thoroughbred Breeders Australia representing Australia’s 8,000 thoroughbred horse breeders and later CEO of Racing Australia, the national regulatory authority for racing in Australia. During that time Mr McGauran instituted the most significant animal welfare and integrity reforms in the history of Australian breeding and racing. Immediately prior to taking up his Post in Houston, Mr McGauran was Special Adviser to the CEO of Tabcorp Holdings.

Mr McGauran graduated from Melbourne University with degrees in Law and Arts.

Patrick Hanlon - Trade and Investment Commissioner, Houston

Patrick Hanlon

Tel: +1 832 962 8431

Patrick is the Trade and Investment Commissioner and Consul responsible for Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

Currently focussing on attracting overseas investment for the Australian resources and agriculture sectors and assisting Australian businesses enter global value chains, Patrick was previously the Trade Commissioner for Southern Africa, based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Prior to joining Austrade Patrick was an adviser to the Australian Minister for Trade, where he worked with Australian businesses seeking to enter new markets.

He has also held positions with the Motor Trades Association of Australia where he represented and promoted the interests of the automotive retail, service and repair sector.

Patrick is a graduate of Bond University with a Bachelor of International Relations and has lived and worked in South Africa, China and Norway.

Chris Oldfield - Consul General and Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, San Francisco

Chris Oldfield

Tel: +1 415 644 3625

Christopher Oldfield is Consul-General & Senior Trade Commissioner at the Australian Consulate-General in San Francisco. In addition to the consular function, the office is responsible for supporting the growth of two way trade and investment between the US West Coast and Australia.

Prior to joining Austrade, Christopher was the Chief Executive Officer of State owned Tasmanian Irrigation Pty Ltd (TI) and was a Member of the Joint Commonwealth and Tasmanian Economic Council, the Tasmanian Food Industry Advisory Council, the Tasmanian Infrastructure Advisory Council and the Joint Commonwealth and Tasmanian Fruit and Vegetable Industry Taskforce.

Christopher previously held senior executive operational and public affairs roles with the Australian resources company, North Limited (formerly North Broken Hill Limited). From 2000 until 2010 Christopher successfully owned and managed the public affairs, political and media consultancy, Tasman Communications (Australia) Pty Ltd specialising in the resources, finance, agricultural and action sports sectors. It was during this time that Christopher acted as the Chief Executive Officer of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) for a two year period.

Christopher is a graduate in Arts from Swinburne University, and he has also successfully completed the International Executive Program at the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD) at Fontainebleau in France. Christopher is a member of the Australia Institute of Company Directors.

Christopher is married to Penny, has two adult daughters and enjoys snow skiing, yacht racing, cooking, Australian and American Western art and Kelpies!

Frances van Ruth - Trade and Investment Commissioner, San Francisco

Frances van Ruth

Tel: +1 415 644 3627

Frances van Ruth is the Consul and Trade & Investment Commissioner at the Australian Consulate-General in San Francisco. In addition to the consular function, the office is responsible for supporting the growth of two way trade and investment between the Western and Northwestern states of the USA and Australia.

Frances joined Austrade in 2013 and prior to her appointment in San Francisco worked as Manager of Agribusiness & Food Investment and Manager, State & Territory Investment Priorities. Before joining Austrade Frances was the Manager of International Strategy & Research for the State Government of Victoria’s Department of Business and Innovation. She has previously held international business research and teaching positions at The University of Melbourne and The University of South Australia.

Frances has a PhD in international management from The University of Melbourne and a Bachelor of International Business (Hons) from Flinders University. Frances is fluent in Spanish.

Joanne Smail - Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, Washington DC

Joanne Smail

From March 2018 Joanne Smail will serve as Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) in Washington DC. This follows 3 months as Chief Strategy Officer accountable for embedding Austrade’s 2018-2022 strategy throughout the organisation to enable client-centricity and digital transformation.

Joanne joined the Australian Government following a career in the private sector as a strategy and business advisor with Scentre Group (owners and operators of Westfield in Australia and New Zealand) and EY. Joanne has worked with companies in the UK, Asia Pacific and Australia, partnering with them to achieve performance improvement outcomes.

Joanne has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, a Masters of Business Administration specialising in international business. She has served as a Non-Executive Director for Marist 180 and The Yoga Foundation, not-for-profit organisations both focussed on empowering and enabling vulnerable sectors of our community to create positive change. She is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

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