Australia is open for business and committed to deepening economic engagement with the Gulf region.
This is the message Trade Minister Andrew Robb has delivered during a recent visit to the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Mr Robb took part in Austrade’s annual regional promotion Australia Unlimited Gulf, showcasing Australian capabilities in education, agriculture and food, resource and water management, urban development, rail, sports and tourism.
“There is a strong fit between demand in the Gulf and Australia’s strengths. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are investing in infrastructure and restructuring their economies – creating opportunities in sectors where Australia has a proven track record,” Mr Robb said.
During the visit, Mr Robb met with senior Ministers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia to advocate for a resumption of negotiations for a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Mr Robb also met with some of the region’s most important investment funds.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia have large sovereign wealth funds with total assets of US$1.7 trillion and are looking to make new international investments into food security, agriculture and infrastructure projects.
“We are now focusing on sovereign funds such as UAE, Saudi, Kuwait and other Gulf countries, which is a several billion Australian dollar investments as Australia is a stable country with low risk and has medium return investments due to the country’s political and economic stability, Mr Robb said.
Australia has a total value of A$700 billion in projects to develop major infrastructure in order to keep pace with the growth in its population and its economy. The government would capitalise on the economic strength of the Gulf countries to go on with these developments.
“There is a strong fit between demand in the Gulf and Australia’s strengths. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are investing in infrastructure and restructuring their economies,” Mr Robb said. This would create an investment opportunities for Australian in the region.
In Riyadh, Mr Robb met with the more than 20 Australian Universities and education providers attending the International Exhibition and Conference on Higher Education and promote Australia as an education destination.
“Gulf countries face challenges in providing education and skills development for their growing and youthful populations. Australia offers world-class opportunities for international education, as well as education and training services delivered in-market,” Mr Robb said.
Deepening business links
Mr Robb noted the growth in aviation links between Australia and the Gulf – with more than 140 flights a week.
This would deepen business links and facilitate growth in the number of tourists from the region.
Mr Robb said he hoped to take UAE and Australia to the next level in sports and tourism.
The UAE is Australia’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.
It now ranks as Australia’s 13th largest export destination and 16th for imports of Australian products.