Austrade will host a series of events in the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt this month to promote the bilateral trade, investment and cultural ties between Australia and the MENA region.
Gerard Seeber, senior trade commissioner and Australian consul general in Dubai, said Australian companies are increasingly looking to form strong partnerships with UAE companies – especially in the health and education sectors.
Speaking at a launch event in Dubai, Mr Seeber said the UAE and Australia had a long history of successful bilateral trade relations with each other.
He was launching the fourth edition of the Australia Unlimited MENA (AU MENA) to be held from January 24 to February 1.
The event will focus on how Australian companies can provide solutions to the growing health and medical needs of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Access to quality health services is a priority across the MENA region because of its growing population, introduction of compulsory health insurance, and the rise of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes.
Mr Seeber said AU MENA 2016 would show how Australian firms can help with the impact of rising demand on health infrastructure and medical resources.
"This year the theme is focused on the medical industry because we feel that it is a burgeoning sector which is growing at 7-8 per cent per annum across the region, driven by the growth in populations,” he said.
“Australia has a long history of innovation and excellence in this sector and we are looking forward to any partnerships that will be formed.”
Mr Seeber was asked whether the recent fall in oil prices had affected exports to the region.
"Oil prices have not affected the UAE's investor appetite in Australia,” he said. “The UAE has been one of our strongest investors and we hope that this will continue in the future.”
Optimistic about future growth
Mr Seeber said Australia’s exports to the region, especially in the food sector have grown.
“We have recorded a roughly 10 per cent growth per annum and remain optimistic about future growth. Of course some areas like the food sector have boasted higher growth rates than others. We have also decided to push into more sectors in the future," he said.
More than 19 Australian healthcare education institutions will participate in the AU MENA 2016 program, and 30 Australian companies are exhibiting at this year's Arab Health Exhibition and Conference to be held in Dubai from January 25-28.
Australia's relationship with GCC economies is strong and growing, with a year-on-year increase of Australian exports to the region increasing 15.8 per cent from 2014 to 2015.
On January 24 this year the Australian Trade Commission, representing the Australian Government, will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dubai Exports, the export promotion agency of the Department of Economic Development, Government of Dubai.
The MoU will establish a framework to strengthen cooperation in the field of trade promotion between the two nations.
Arthur Spyrou, ambassador designate to the UAE and Qatar for Australia described the economic activity in the UAE as extraordinary.
"We had almost 40,000 people travel to Australia from the UAE last year, Mr Spyrou said
Free trade agreement
“About 55 per cent of the tourists from the GCC were from the UAE. This is an indicator of the people to people links that we have with the UAE and there is a natural affinity between the two peoples.”
Mr Spyrou said the trade relationship with the GCC is valued at around A$9 billion a year, with the UAE contributing just under A$6 billion of that figure.
“Its our strongest relationship in the MENA region and we think that there is a lot more that we can do to take this relationship further,” he said.
“Australia is very interested in an free trade agreement with the GCC and we will push for one as soon as we can."