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One step closer to Middle East free trade agreement

One step closer to Middle East free trade agreement article image

Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb has returned from a trip to the Middle East to help open the door wider for two-way trade with Australia.

Mr Robb visited the United Arab Emirates, the State of Kuwait, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of Qatar with a delegation of 16 senior business executives.

The delegates were representing a range of sectors including banking and finance, aviation, agriculture and education.

It was Mr Robb’s third visit to the Gulf in the past 12 months.

“This indicates the priority Australia places on further deepening trade and investment links with this dynamic region,” Mr Robb said.

During the visit Mr Robb met with some of the region’s most significant investors to promote Australia as “a safe and reliable investment destination” in areas such as tourism, core infrastructure and food and agriculture.

Business and investment opportunities

Mr Robb was also keen to resume negotiations for a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

“An FTA with the Gulf states would improve Australian business and investment opportunities in a part of the world that is rapidly emerging as a significant economic and trading hub,” he said.

While in the UAE Mr Robb launched Australia Unlimited – Middle East and North Africa 2015, an event showcasing Australia’s world-class innovation in agribusiness and aquaculture, sustainable urban development, and vocational education and training.

“Australia welcomes greater collaboration on vocational, research and academic exchange with GCC countries,” Mr Robb said.

Australia already boasts $12 billion trade with the GCC, which is comparable to India. The GCC states are its 13th largest trading partner. 

Education a significant sector

In 2013 to 2014, Australia’s merchandise exports to Saudi Arabia totalled $2.24 billion, with passenger motor vehicles as the top commodity export.

Other major exports included barley, beef and wheat. 

Also, education is one of the most significant industry sectors.

During his visit Mr Robb attended the opening of the International Exhibition and Conference on Higher Education (IECHE) in Riyadh.

IECHE featured an Australian pavilion with 29 universities represented. 

Last year, there were more than 10,100 Saudi enrolments in Australian educational institutions – the largest body of students from the Middle East region.

Vocational education and training is also a growing sector, with both Box Hill Institute and Central Queensland University having an ongoing presence in Saudi Arabia.

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