15 April 2021

Key insights

US  President Biden has signed an Executive Order that aims to secure supply chains for essential goods. A review of critical supply chains will focus on:

  • pharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical agreements
  • critical minerals, including rare earths
  • semiconductors and advanced packaging
  • large capacity batteries, such as those used in electric vehicles.

The review implies bipartisan support for diversification of supply chains for critical minerals. This means the opportunities for expanded mining, refining and processing of Australian critical minerals that have been identified over the previous two years will remain valid.

US – Austrade and DFTAT have published a report to mark the 15 years since US and Australia signed their free trade agreement. Called 15 Years and Beyond the report notes a near tripling in investment, and highlights some of the major successes and Australia–US relations.

US – The US defence market remains the largest in the world with the most opportunities for Australian industry. However, access to the supply chains of multi-nationals will become more challenging as companies merge and consolidate. For Australian companies, greater opportunities will open up in areas like AI, surveillance and C2 for non-traditional defence companies.  

Canada – Borders remain closed. Essential travel for Canadian and US citizens is permitted, and this includes trade shipments via rail and truck, people carrying out essential work, immediate family, students and those needing to travel on compassionate grounds. Exempt travelers must still self-quarantine for 14 days. Australians are allowed to transit through the US from Canada if they have a valid airline ticket to Australia.

Market opportunities

Food & Agri

US – There is a move to provide virtual re-marking trade services for Australian meat exporters. This service is required when the United States Department of Agriculture refuses product entry owing to missing, incorrect, or incomplete shipping marks. Virtual re-marking provides a significant cost savings to Australian meat producers. Austrade is currently waiving services fees for this service until December 31.

Defence

Canada – Australia is seen as having a strong competitive advantage for the roll out of drone-based services, because of our regulatory environment. A Canadian company recently tested its drone systems by using them to deliver masks and sanitiser to remote indigenous communities in Canada. A number of companies are looking at potential pilot projects in Australia to prove commercial viability.

US – The National Defense Industrial Association’s second annual Vital Signs report on the health of the US defense industrial base was released on February 2. For the second year in a row, the defense industrial base is reported to be on negative trajectory and facing significant challenges. These include industrial security and supply chain problems. Further consolidation is expected as contractors look to bolster their business portfolios and access to innovation through mergers and acquisitions. This may bring efficiencies but will further reduce competition.  

US The Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Ellen Lord, announced that the US DoD is using industry feedback to draft new guidance to streamline the process of providing financial reimbursements to contractors impacted by the pandemic. Australian-owned US-registered companies may be able to make claims under Section 3610 of the CARES Act of March 2020.

Technology

US Increased demand in the logistics industry and real estate sector has triggered opportunities for Australian companies with innovative logistics solutions and retailtech.

Manufacturing/training

Canada – To stimulate the economy, the province of Ontario is investing in major infrastructure projects – including in transit systems, highways and broadband. C$37 million of that investment is being allocated to training 15,000 students to obtain skills in supporting industries, such as advanced manufacturing. Australian VET organisations interested in this opportunity should contact Austrade for more details.

Health

US – There is likely to be a boom in healthcare spending and investment in 2021, according to health industry figures. Investment in pharma, medtech and digital health is expected to reach new heights. The trigger for increased spending is the huge personal savings that have accumulated during COVID-19 related shutdowns.

US – Clinical trials research has slowed and there is an 18-month backlog in viral vector manufacturing for gene therapies. Australia’s ability to quickly restart clinical trials would offer a significant opportunity to secure more clinical trial projects from the US.

US – Boston-based Novellus is developing a cell-therapy treatment for acute respiratory failure and is looking to find connections, run trials and develop partners in the Australian market. Australia’s proven ability to partner in high quality research at a low relative cost is attractive to US pharma companies. The US Health Team believes US demand for these services will remain strong.

Medtech

US Life science deals are expected to bounce back quickly. One bright spot throughout 2020 has been biotech IPOs coming online in record-breaking numbers. However, with more companies listing sooner, it is challenging pharma corporate investors to look at increasingly earlier company stages for deal flow. Companies seeking corporate partners should be prepared to produce strong data and a clear market plan. 

US – The digital health market increased by 10–15% per year prior to the pandemic, and this rate will now accelerate. Two major trends driving this acceleration are an increase in virtual services and a decline in in-person and elective procedures. Opportunities for Australian companies include telehealth and remote monitoring, patient engagement, clinical trial technologies, and pharmacy benefits technologies. Companies looking for growth opportunities in the US in these areas should contact the Austrade centre for more information.

US – There is growing interest in finding opportunities to use artificial intelligence to improve drug discovery and repurposing – including for personalised medicine. Industry leaders have noted that an absence of regulation in this areas is inhibiting investment. This may provide opportunities for Australian expertise.