Opinion by Andrew Hiebl, Executive Director
Most political analysts have stated that the week of 7-13 April 2014 has been the Australian Government’s finest since coming to office in September 2013. With a pre-election vision of strengthening trade and investment relationships into Asia, actions have spoken louder than words, signalling that Australia is open for business.
With attention mostly given to free trade agreements resulting in the historic Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement, the Free Trade Agreement signed with South Korea (on 8 April), and an agreement with China imminent - Australia’s business events industry will undoubtedly reap the flow on benefits through stronger trading relationships with our neighbours in the Asia Pacific region.
Further, Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb led Australia’s largest ever trade mission to China (coinciding with Australia Week in China) of more than 700 businesspeople, including representatives of the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux. Maintaining a pre-election commitment that a Federal Coalition Government would invest additional funding to secure the future of this event enables the ongoing promotion of Australian tourism, education, trade and investment opportunities to the rapidly growing Chinese market.
In February of this year, China became the first country that Australia has allowed access to a three-year multiple entry visa for business visitors – providing significant advantage to Chinese corporate incentives looking to Australia. Entry to Australia for eligible Singapore nationals has also been enhanced with the extension of SmartGate technology allowing the self-service of arrival processing.
Alongside these significant activities, nine of Australia’s convention bureaux participated in Tourism Australia’s North Asia Showcase in Seoul and Shanghai. Similar support is expected for the South East Asia Showcase scheduled for Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, 26-30 May. This series of events is designed to deliver access to business event buyers and corporate decision makers through face-to-face meetings and networking opportunities.
With Australia’s positioning in Asia being recognised by this Government as vital for the nation’s prosperity, it is essential that international business events are identified as a means to help achieve this goal - not only as a driver for one-way gain when it comes to trade and economic development, but also as a key mechanism to enhance bilateral relations within the region.