Karen Surmon
Trade and Investment Commissioner , Thailand, Laos and Myanmar


Karen is the Trade and Investment Commissioner at the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade), working at the Australian Embassy, Bangkok. 

Following early career opportunities at the University of South Australia, where she held roles in international relations, student recruitment and business development, Karen followed her passion for adventure and relocated to China in 2003. Since then she has spent sixteen years living and working in China, Singapore and Thailand, spanning roles in both the public and private sector. 

Karen’s private sector roles in China include Brand and Communications Manager with China’s largest wine importer and distributor, and Associate with Beijing Consulting Group, where she was co-founder of the Australia China Alumni Association. 

Karen joined the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) in 2013. She was Austrade’s State Director for South Australia before commencing a five year posting in Shanghai as Trade and Investment Commissioner, where she led teams in manufacturing, infrastructure innovation, food, beverage and consumer. Highlights include establishing the Shanghai Landing Pad, and formulating the inaugural ‘Festival of Australia’ which has achieved huge digital reach and is now a signature annual event in the Austrade Greater China calendar. 

In 2018 Karen relocated to Bangkok, where she leads a fabulous team of business development manages spanning Infrastructure, Advanced Manufacturing, Defence, Health and the F&B and Consumer sectors. As an advocate of diversity and inclusion, and a long-standing commitment to developing emerging female talent, Karen is also an active member of the Australian Thailand Chamber of Commerce Women in Leadership Committee. There, she helped establish the Walk the Talk mentor walking series, building on her experience with the Mentor Walks network in Shanghai.

Karen has a Graduate Certificate in International Marketing from the University of South Australia and a Bachelor of International Business from Flinders University. A fluent Mandarin speaker, her Chinese qualifications include Mandarin language certificates from the Beijing University of International Business and Economics (2004) and Beijing Second Foreign Languages Institute (1996), both under scholarships from the Australia China Council.

Karen is married to a wellness coach, and has two daughters - 11 and 13 - who were born in China. She loves traveling and recently got her PADI open water dive certificate.