By Scott McClellan, Director of the Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce
At a recent Economic Leadership Forum in Melbourne, Prime Minister Tony Abbott drew on old war-time ties to demonstrate the bond that exists between Australia and Canada, a relationship too long taken for granted and inadequately nurtured.
“On a wall in my offices, hangs a painting of a World War One battlefield near Vimy Ridge where Canadian and Australian soldiers had been comrades-in-arms,” he said. “In those days, it would have been taken for granted that Canadians and Australians should have gone into action together, as part of the British Empire’s armies in France. These days, despite a language in common, a shared Westminster parliamentary tradition, and a Queen of Canada who is also the Queen of Australia, we are not so often in each other’s thoughts. That should change.”
By invoking Vimy Ridge, Mr. Abbott would have pushed a button with the Canadians in his audience. For most Canadians, Vimy Ridge is considered their crucible of nationhood, much the same way most Australians believe their own national identity was forged on the bloody beaches and hillsides of Gallipoli.
“With two way investment at over $70 billion – and with Australian companies such as BHP playing an active role in Canada – the commercial relationship is in reasonable shape,” observed Mr. Abbott. “But there should be more to our friendship than money. The relationship is strong but under-developed even though we are as like-minded as any two countries can be. As the world’s tenth and twelfth largest economies, our two countries carry considerable clout. But despite inhabiting a very similar intellectual and cultural space, we are rarely as conscious as we should be of each other’s presence.”
As economies dominated by resources and agriculture, it would be easy to see the two countries as commercial rivals in the global contest for new markets. And there have been skirmishes over the years: for example, a dispute over the import of Canadian salmon to Australia in the mid 90’s. It was not finally settled by the World Trade Organisation until 2000.
But conflict has been the exception, not the rule. A 2012 report for the Canadian Council of Chief Executives found that we have “highly similar economies in terms of size, wealth, governance systems, most observable socio-economic characteristics, resource endowments and specialization in international trade. To the extent that countries trade because they are different, this works as a disincentive to deepening trade relations.”
Despite the shortage of trade in goods and services, the study found that bilateral investment had become a major feature of commerce between the two countries. Clearly there is high level of mutual trust and strong investor confidence on both sides:
“Both Canada and Australia have global direct investment (FDI) stocks that are larger than annual global exports of goods and services. For Canada, in 2010, the stock of investment was 1.55 times the size of global exports of goods and services; for Australia, the comparable ratio was 1.31. However, in the bilateral relationship, these ratios are about an order of magnitude larger: for Canada the ratio of direct investment in Australia to its exports of goods and services to Australia in 2010 was 8.7; for Australia the comparable figure was 13.1. While foreign affiliate sales data are not available on a bilateral basis, applying the global average of a $1.67 in foreign affiliate sales for $1.00 in FDI, foreign affiliate sales in 2010 may be estimated at US$ 36 billion for Australian firms in Canada and US$ 25 billion for Canadian firms in Australia. Seen this way, the relationship suddenly looks neither small—US$ 65 billion in two-way trade plus foreign affiliate sales—nor lagging in growth.”
The same report found that “there is room for further development of trade in various sectors of particular interest, including (in terms of Canada’s export interests) agricultural products; food and beverages; fish and seafood products; agricultural technology and equipment; forest products; metals, minerals and related equipment, and consumer products (including apparel and fashion); and (in terms of Australia’s export interests), environmental goods, mining and oil & gas technology, and wine.”
The Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce (CACC) has an important role to play in raising the level of ‘consciousness’ between the two countries. Its programs and networking events are designed to help grease the wheels of enterprise.
Founded in 2005, CACC is a not-for-profit organisation whose focus is to build and strengthen trade and business connections between Australia and Canada. It hosts and co-sponsors functions, events, cocktail receptions, trade delegations and presentations from business leaders and politicians from all major parties. CACC maintains relationships with senior and operational level staff of Government in both countries, providing access to an extensive and growing network of individuals and organisations with an interest in the Canada-Australia business relationship.
Crucial to this endeavour is the generous support of sponsors such as Air Canada, RBC Capital Markets, Bombardier, Altus Page Kirkland, KPMG, CAE, Stikeman Elliott, Worley Parsons, and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. This support makes it possible for CACC to offer outstanding speakers at a fraction of the cost commercial event organisations might charge.
Membership in CACC is open to all corporations, public sector bodies, educational institutions and other organisations who share our interest in promoting the development and expansion of bilateral trade, investment and commerce. But there are also membership opportunities for individuals looking to expand their own personal business networks. At just $220, Gold Membership provides ‘front of the queue’ access to networking functions as well as bigger speaker events throughout the year. And for those who simply wish to keep in touch with what’s going on, there is a ‘CACC Supporter’ category. Member to member benefits include special deals on airfares and accommodation.
A recent coup was attracting Jack Cowin, founder of Hungry Jack’s and a distinguished Canadian/Australian, as a patron of the Chamber. Since opening his first store in a suburb of Perth in 1971 after emigrating to Australia from Canada, Mr. Cowin has come to preside over a franchise empire boasting more than 340 locations across Australia. As a patron of CACC, Mr. Cowin will provide valuable guidance to the Board and the benefit of one of our countries’ most astute business minds.
The CACC Board itself has recently undergone significant renewal, with the appointment of several new directors who bring a wealth of business and not for profit organisation management skills to the organisation. New faces include Ross Campbell, the co-founder of the MBO Group, a boutique advisory firm specialising in assisting private companies. Mike McGrath is a Managing Partner, Clients, Industries and Markets with PricewaterhouseCoopers and is based in Melbourne. Scott McClellan, former CEO of the Australian Association of National Advertisers, runs an association management consultancy based in Sydney, and Brian Hansen is managing partner of Stikeman Elliott Sydney.
Longer-serving directors include: Dominic Hudson, Managing Director of RBC Capital Markets Asia Pacific; Nathan Seidl, a political consultant and airline pilot based in Sydney; Greg McNab, a Partner in Baker & McKenzie based in Toronto; and Executive Director John Secker, former Country Head of the Royal Bank of Canada for Australia and New Zealand and is based in Sydney. A key figure in the founding of the Chamber was Richard Kohler, Governor Emeritus, a specialist in trade and economic issues who spent more than three decades serving in Canada’s Foreign Service, including in Sydney.
Over the years, CACC has forged a close relationship with the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade), the agency tasked with helping Australian business succeed in overseas markets. Austrade has identified several areas of mutual interest for Australia and Canada to pursue. These include biotechnology, resources, finance, IT, education, and agriculture. This information helps CACC plan its events and other activities in the knowledge that its work is closely aligned with government and business priorities. Chamber supporters can expect the events program in the coming year to leverage these sectors for topics and guest speakers.
CACC also cultivates its network of important contacts in government. The Chamber has a practice of extends Honorary Gold Memberships to senior Canadian and Australian government officials who are actively engaged with promoting trade and investment flows between the two countries. The Canadian Consul General in Sydney enjoys such a membership as do the Canadian High Commissioner to Australia and the Australian High Commissioner to Canada, as well as the Australian Senior Trade Commissioner in Toronto.
The Chamber is also an enthusiastic supporter of the Australian Canadian Economic Leadership Forum, a gathering of business and political leaders of our two countries that has occurred every two years since 2010. The 2014 Forum in Melbourne featured topics including: the global economy and finance; international trade; foreign direct investment; infrastructure development; arts, culture and business; security issues in Asia Pacific; and innovation and opportunities in the mining and energy sectors. Forum Co-Chairs, Thomas d’Aquino and Heather Ridout, along with the Organising Committee, created an exciting program with 49 distinguished private and public sector leaders for a dynamic and interactive exchange of ideas and experiences. The final communique read, in part:
“A recurring theme at the conference, coming as it did after the G-20 meeting, was the challenge of stimulating more economic growth in the two countries and in the world economy. A particular challenge for Australia and Canada in this context is that governments are either running deficits or have barely balanced the budget whereas the private sectors have a great deal of money that is not yet being invested. The fiscal challenge facing both countries occurs as populations are aging, with implications for higher health-care costs and fewer people in the workforce. Therefore, speakers emphasized that governments needed to keep taxes low, and preferably to lower them, and to find other ways of stimulating private sector investment. These include securing bilateral trade agreements, such as Australia has recently accomplished with Korea and Canada with the European Union. Additionally, economic growth would be helped by pushing multilateral trade agreements to successful conclusions, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership in which Australia and Canada are both participants. No participants seemed optimistic about early progress in the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations.”
There is plenty of room for optimism about the future of commercial ties. Canada’s Exporter Registry shows that the number of companies exporting to Australia grew from 2,161 in 2003 to over 3000 in 2013 with Austrade reporting about 2,000 companies trading in the direction of Canada.
As Mr. Abbott has said: “Australians and Canadians should be more conscious not only of all that we have in common but of all the good that we might do together. So, my intention is to broaden and deepen the relationship between our two kindred countries. Just as my office rescued the Vimy Ridge painting from a public service storeroom where it had been languishing until just a couple of months ago!”
Find our more about the Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce (CACC) by visiting: www.cacc.com.au
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