Promoting Australian business and trade links in the Middle East and North Africa

23 January 2016

The Australian Government's major trade and investment promotion initiative, Australia Unlimited Middle East and North Africa 2016 (AU MENA 2016), will run between 24 January and 1 February in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

I will lead an Australian commercial delegation of 82 Australian firms to meet with Middle Eastern business and government counterparts in key areas of health, education, tourism and sport.

The MENA region is an important export market for Australian firms, with two-way trade worth $15 billion a year, and it's also a major source of foreign investment.

There are over 450 Australian companies and more than 30,000 Australians in the Persian Gulf alone and exports to the region are growing strongly.

Australia has a good reputation in the Middle East as a healthy and safe food producer and this delegation will help Australian companies to promote our quality produce.

The ongoing Free Trade Agreement negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, which re-commenced in 2014, will be discussed and I will be working hard to overcome some of the barriers to finalising this agreement.

Australia's expertise in event management for sport will also be a theme of AU MENA. I will be visiting Qatar to meet officials and business people associated with the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The UAE will host the AFC Asian Cup 2019 and I will be officially handing over the Cup to the UAE. Australian companies and football representatives will be present to share their experience of managing the very successful 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia.

A key focus this year will be the ways in which Australian health care services firms can help MENA countries cope with growing demand for health services due to larger populations, the introduction of compulsory medical insurance, the spread of lifestyle illnesses such as diabetes and medical tourism.

Total health care spending in the region is forecast to reach US$144 billion by 2020 and in the nations of the GCC, spending on health is expected to reach US$69 billion by 2020.

The need to enhance skill levels in the health care sector also offers opportunities for Australian education and training providers.

International Education has been identified as one of five key growth industries for Australia and the MENA region has been identified as an important source market.

There are already more than 26,000 students from the GCC and Morocco studying in Australia and several Australian universities have a presence in the region but there's a great opportunity to build on this.

The Middle East is also an important aviation hub and there has been a dramatic increase in tourism and freight capacity between Australia and the region. Five airlines now offer 147 direct return flights a week between the UAE and Qatar, and Australia. I will be meeting with airline executives to talk about how we can continue this growth.

In 2014-15 there were 69,250 visitors to Australia from the GCC nations, which added to Australia's record that year of 6.6 million international visitors, and about 320,000 Australian tourists visit the UAE every year.

160123 Colbeck Media Release - Promoting Australian business and Trade links in MENA
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