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Boosting trade with the Middle East

AN AUSTRADE mission to the Middle East is being held this week with aims to deepen trade links with the region. Australia Unlimited Middle East and North Africa (AU MENA) 2017 trade mission also looks to showcase Australia’s capabilities across a range of industries to increase investment and education links with the region.

For the first time Iran is being included in the AU MENA mission, which has been an annual event since 2013.Also, major activities taking place in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with associated programs in Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt.

Austrade consul general and senior trade commissioner for MENA Gerard Seeber said the region was undergoing a period of dramatic change, driven by low oil prices and increased geopolitical and economic stability in its largest countries. “Companies and governments alike, especially in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries, are having to rein in expenditure, look for different sources of revenue and consider restructuring and diversifying their economies,” he said. “This has created opportunities for Australia to help develop emerging industries and cope with growing demand across areas such as health, education and training, food sufficiency, mining and civil security."

The nations of the GCC (comprising of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) and Egypt already have strong trade relationships with Australia. The UAE and Australia shared $8bn in two-way trade in goods and services in 2015-16. Additionally, Australia and Saudi Arabia recorded $2.8bn in two-way trade in goods and services over the same period.

Mr Seeber said with sanctions against Iran now lifted, Australia’s trade relationship with the region could grow.

This year, AU MENA will also hold a week-long program for Dairy Australia. The program will run in key markets in the MENA region – Iran, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. The Australian dairy industry has had a flourishing relationship with the GCC market, with 11 per cent of total dairy exports making its way into the region. MENA is likely to remain a key destination for Australian exports, given 57 per cent of the GCC’s total dairy consumption is met through imports.

AU MENA is an Austrade led program, in collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, states and territories, and key business and industry stakeholders.